Dear Friends,

Our country is struggling.

Last week was probably one of the most traumatized weeks we’ve ever experienced – we exceeded the 100,000 mark for COVID-19 related deaths in the US; hit the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression; collectively watched the murder of George Floyd; and witnessed a video of a white woman weaponizing her privilege and gender to harm a Black man in Central Park.  It was too much.

Then came the protests.

Black and Latino communities have suffered inequities in education, health, economic, and judicial inequities, now more than ever is the time to work for systemic change.

As crisis after crisis grips our nation, we recognize that what we are seeing is the manifestations of a systematized structure of inequity that privileges some, disadvantages others, and holds economic power out of the hands of the marginalized.  Structural Racism.  A preponderance of evidence exists so that we can now collectively say its name as a root cause to so many of our shared problems.  Structural Racism.  Structural Racism.  We should continue to say it, so that we don’t ease away from our shared outrage and vehemence of the words.  We have been working to reach this collective moment for years!  It feels good to not have to say it only in safe spaces – Structural Racism!

Now, what to do?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but there are some things I know:

  • Any successful self-help program will affirm that the first step to wellness is admitting our defect out loud and to others, before the real work of healing can begin. America must begin this process.
  • Now that we’re here, we must decide together what we can do together to dismantle it. Structural racism injures both the oppressor and the oppressed alike, and our current healing and future wellbeing (which will look and be measured vastly different from now) depends on our collective work…together.
  • We must be courageous and not lose heart, and we must “stay in the room.” We are only at the beginning of a long journey, and like any healing process, it will take time to see the results of our work.

The work must now begin in earnest.

The Greater Rochester Black Agenda Group has declared racism as a public health crisis, and a number of Convener organizations have signed on to support the declaration publicly, including, Action for a Better Community, Greater Rochester Health Foundation, Ibero American-Action League and SUNY Brockport.  This growing list of Rochester’s community partners and change agents stand with the families and communities of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breona Taylor and all the others, who have paid the ultimate price for the being Black.  Yet we know that where there is no struggle, there is no progress.

As ROC the Future embraces our work to lift racial equity and educational change at a systems level, we do so with the explicit understanding that the change we seek and are working to bring about begins with “us.” It begins with parents, students, educators, elected officials, childcare workers, early educators and afterschool providers, pediatricians, college leaders, and employers and businesses, organizations and institutions.  It is all of us.  We say “yes” in this moment, and we believe it can and will happen, if we work together.  Our hearts are open and together, we say yes.

I am encouraged!

For the children,