A Statement on the NAI Conference in Arkansas
May 10, 2023
NAI has been working hard to plan for our 2023 conference. The preparation has come with excitement but also with trepidation. You see, like many of you we have been watching the news. We have been concerned by the ongoing actions by state governments all around the country, including Arkansas, where our 2023 National Conference will be held, that continue to target members of traditionally marginalized communities.
NAI’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement includes the following:
“NAI is committed to having a supplier base that reflects our diverse member base. We will do this by identifying and working with diverse vendors, contractors, and consultants. NAI is careful and strategic in selecting venues where it holds national and regional meetings. Whenever possible, NAI will not support businesses where discrimination in any form is codified.”
This is an important value for us and one that we are striving to implement every day. When we first wrote this goal, we were thinking about specific venues and organizations that we contracted with individually. We realize now that we will have to think differently about how we implement this goal at a larger scale. Decisions regarding the location of the conference are made based on a range of factors, including accessibility, affordability, and the availability of appropriate facilities.
NAI refuses to give in to othering, hate, targeting, and exclusion in any form. We support people, locations, and businesses that promote inclusion and will act to model our beliefs in Little Rock and at all future conferences. We will curate a list of local organizations supporting LGBTQIA+ activism and other communities in Little Rock who are targeted by these laws so that you have the opportunity to donate directly to them.
We feel that it is important to acknowledge that the location of the conference may cause concern for some members, and we want you to know steps are being taken to ensure that all attendees feel safe and supported while in Little Rock.
How can we make people feel comfortable and safe attending? Some of the ideas we are discussing include listing and supporting local groups and inclusive businesses while we are in Little Rock, creating spaces where anyone can take a break or hang out, and assembling volunteers to accompany attendees to and from the conference locations or who just want someone to walk with them as they travel in the city. As we have done at the past several conferences, we will staff a DEI table at the Registration Area. This will be a central hub for folks once at the conference. In advance we will create a strategic communication and support network through the conference app.
We understand that some of our members may feel uneasy about attending the conference in Arkansas. We want to assure you that we are taking steps to create a safe and inclusive environment for all attendees. It is understandable that many people struggle with how to support host communities without financially rewarding bigoted actions by the governments where they live and work.
It is important to remember that supporting the local economy and businesses can have a positive impact on the community and can help to promote inclusivity and diversity. While some of us have the option to visit areas where laws and policies may be harmful to marginalized communities and then leave (or not visit at all), people from marginalized communities deserve our support as they work to protect their rights and dignity. We cannot forget or turn our backs on the communities that are living in that environment every day. We must work to find a balance between supporting the local economy and businesses, while also ensuring that our actions do not contribute to harm or discrimination against marginalized communities.
As an organization, we are committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all members at our conferences, including those in Little Rock this year, St. Augustine, Florida, in 2024, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 2025. We will continue to explore ways to support local communities and businesses while also upholding our commitment to equity, inclusion, and justice for all. We will work to address concerns of all members and conference attendees, and provide support as needed.
NAI has the opportunity to lead by example, to model our organizational values in the name of inclusion and equity. We will update you on our plans as we move forward. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
Parker McMullen Bushman
NAI Executive Director
|in collaboration with the NAI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee