Many of us at Do Big Things have been working on issues of human rights and criminal justice reform for years with partners such as the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Movement for Black Lives, Demos, Advancement Project, Color of Change, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and others. The unjust killing of a black person at the hands of those who should protect them — George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many more — has happened before and without the intervention of good people and better policies, will happen again.
We recognize that this is a turning point in our nation. As the black mother of a black son, certainly this has been literally a gut-wrenching moment. Our team is 50% people of color and therefore we are experiencing events in a variety of ways as diverse as we are. The 1968 Kerner Commission Report was tasked by Lyndon B. Johnson to help the nation better understand the unrest then (and now) roiling in American cities. They summarized:
“Bad policing practices, a flawed justice system, unscrupulous consumer credit practices, poor or inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression, and other culturally embedded forms of racial discrimination all converged to propel violent upheaval on the streets of African-American neighborhoods in American cities, north and south, east and west.”
Sound familiar? And while this era may feel like a combination of 1918 meets 1968, there was actually a deadly flu pandemic in 1968 that is worth noting as yet another factor catalyzing social change.
Those working in the progressive movement understand that these conditions have not abated but intensified over recent years. No matter what issue our partners are working on, your work likely touches one of the aspects driving protests today, especially as we adjust to a new normal in the midst of a pandemic which has shone a harsh light on our society’s continuing and unnecessary inequities. We understand that many organizations are taking a step back to engage in dialogue with their partners in this time to respond to what’s happening around our nation and act in solidarity.
This is the right time to re-examine how we lead and whom we wish to follow going forward. New leaders and new approaches can emerge when we are willing to listen and learn from each other.
We stand together with all those dreaming of a better day when parents like me no longer have to plan to have The Talk with their child about how to survive an inevitable encounter with police. We are making space in our work to hear the voices of our colleagues, especially those who are black and brown. This is a moment when it is right to check in with your black and brown team members and partners to see what they might need right now.
Resources and Reading
You may be questioning (or hearing others question) – what can we do? How can we help? To start, here’s a list of on-the-ground organizations who are organizing in communities around the country including bailing out protestors :
I’ve long been an admirer of Alexis McGill Johnson and her team’s work over at Perception Institute where they are using cutting-edge science to better understand and combat bias and racial anxiety.
Lifehacker has a comprehensive list of orgs to support including a compilation of funds that directly support the families of victims:
Here is a site that our client the Movement for Black Lives (mother organization for #BlackLivesMatter) has recommended as a resource:
Baratunde Thurston, my former collaborator at Jack and Jill Politics offers this list of resources:
Here’s a list that was first shared by my friend Rebecca Tabasky who runs Community Programs at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society —
“Three things to do and model right now: 1) Practice empathy; 2) Dare to have difficult conversations; 3) Address concerns with humanity. In this process, you will find your voice and act even though you know it will be imperfect. Action is needed because staying silent means we are part of the problem.”
Finally, I’d like to end with this quote from the great Maya Angelou posted on her Facebook page on May 15, 2013.
We are enduring a society that seems to change daily. This accelerated pace of social innovation is in part driven by digital transformation which has exponentially increased the rapidity of ideas and information circulating in our world. The path ahead will not be easy and we may not reach the mountaintop in our lifetimes. Yet, even as we hand the baton to those who come after us, we know, step by step, we can create a better tomorrow that is clean and green, peaceful and prosperous. Thank you for walking alongside us into that brighter future.