In Response to the Death of George Floyd
I’m writing to you today with a range of emotions.
I’m saddened by the inexplicable loss of yet another human life. I’m confused as to how after taking so many steps forward during my lifetime, we as a country seemingly always find a way to take steps back. I’m angered by a system that vilifies people because of how they look or where they’re from.
What happened to George Floyd on May 25th and Breonna Taylor on March 13th and Ahmaud Arbery on February 23rd is far too familiar to us all – especially to the Black community. These murders and others like them will leave an unrelenting, everlasting stain on our country. To those of you experiencing pain, frustration, and exhaustion from this never-ending fight…we hear you, we’re with you, and we support you.
Protests and rallies in major cities across America and the world, including one I attended this week in the City of Brockton, continue to communicate simple and powerful messages to which we should all be listening:
Black Lives Matter. We Want Justice. I Can’t Breathe.
It’s hard to know where to start to properly address such a boundless issue. It will take empathy in every sense of the word to foster the true collaboration we need in communities across America. I’m reminded of what Kevin Washington, President and CEO of YMCA of the USA, said just a couple years ago:
“Young people can accomplish anything.”
At the Y, this has always been our focus, and this is where we’ll start. Young people have always driven change in our community, and today is no different. We are committed to acknowledging, understanding, and breaking down the inequities that exist in our organization and our society – and we’ll do this by following the lead of our young people.
- We will find new ways to both amplify youth voice and mobilize for change.
- We will reinforce our commitment to diversity and inclusion at every level of our Y.
- We will work with public officials, community leaders, partner organizations, and people with lived experience to create positive change.
- We will advocate for social justice at the federal, state, and local level.
For decades, Old Colony Y has addressed the challenges faced by our community by developing innovative programs in the areas of juvenile justice, mental health, violence prevention, homelessness, and so much more. At the core of that work are thousands individual relationships with the people we serve every day. As we face a new challenge today, we will look to this history for guidance, and then pivot to look forward with hope and aspiration.
While I will never be able to see the world through the eyes of a person of color or understand the pain of someone who is persecuted for simply being something other than white, I will do everything I can to fight for change. Our Y must be a leader in the way we treat people, the way we serve the community, and the way we drive progress.
I consider myself lucky to be a part of a mission-driven organization along with colleagues from all backgrounds and experiences. I wonder at times like these how those colleagues are feeling about the culture of our Y and the state of their community – because before we can look to the future, we must confront the emotions of the present.
With that in mind, we developed an anonymous feedback loop with our staff to fight inequity both internally and externally. We can’t do it without you – our staff, members, participants, and community. Here, staff can share questions, ideas, and concerns surrounding racial equity so we can begin to develop solutions together. I hope to share some of that feedback with you soon.
In times like these, it’s important that we all take a moment to simply “check in” with our teams, our friends, and our families. These conversations may be uncomfortable, but they are necessary as we attempt to move forward. On this page, you’ll find links to resources you may find helpful this week and in the weeks to come.
Please stay safe,
President & CEO
Old Colony Y
Training for our staff
At the YMCA, we are focused on community and care of others; yet, we know that our own mental, emotional, and physical health are impacted as well. We have asked Liza Talusan, a national facilitator on issues of race, racism, and leadership, to support our staff through these difficult times. In this interactive workshop, Y employees will explore some of our own experiences in this work and connect it to the larger national movement.
What does it mean to be anti-racist?
In this session, we will examine the differences between passive racist, non-racist, and anti-racist as a way to build our toolkit of definitions. We will take a deep dive into exploring our own education - how we learned and what we learned - to identify gaps in our own knowledge construction and the impact of those gaps on our work today. We will work through identity development models as a guide for understanding our own roles in racism and anti-racism. Through this, we will learn pathways for having constructive conversations that lean into difficult topics. Drawing from examples in your own organization, you will actively create a plan to address oppression from a structural approach that is informed by identity consciousness and anti-racist practices.