As we walk through a particularly sickening time for our region and our nation, words fail to describe the grief, outrage and deep sadness shared by the United Way team, board and myself - in the deepest parts of my spirit. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, among others, deserved to chase their dreams and to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
On Monday morning, I invited our United Way team for a time to listen to each other and to be together in this moment. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew we needed a space to listen and time to grieve together. It was a hard conversation. It’s hard to hear that as an organization we need to do better. Honestly, it stung. But it was also a milestone, truly a turning point in my understanding about the experiences of people of color on our team and in our country. I’m grateful to each of them for listening, sharing their truth and to all the people who are fighting against racism and injustice that have sparked heartfelt conversations like these across the nation.
As a legacy organization that exists to fight poverty, we must recognize that racial disparity exists in every area of our work. From access to early literacy and high quality childcare, to access to jobs and capital for entrepreneurs, to college savings and affordable housing, the world’s scales continue to benefit some more than others.
In a real way, poverty is violence. It is pervasive, pernicious, and the outcome of generations of systemic racism and injustices. COVID-19 has revealed these disparities in raw detail.
If we want to participate in bold action and transformation, it requires acknowledging and accepting where we fall short and how we can learn from where we are now. While I do not have the answers, I’m here to listen, learn and offer this: a commitment and a promise that we’ll take a closer look at our own internal operations, our own guiding principles and at the way we address the issues of poverty and the opportunity to understand how we can do better.
We are committed to elevating the voices of Black and other minority leaders who are critical to this movement. This is not the start of anything new - it represents an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to a cause that has stalled far too many times.
It will take all of our voices, rising together, to work for unmistakable and dramatic change in our community and nation. This is only the start.