Our Statement of Condemnation, Message of Hope and Commitment to Change
Anger... Frustration... Desperation... Helpless... Hopeless... Trapped... Racism... Pain... Fear... Disgust... Resignation... Powerless.
These are just some of the words, thoughts and emotions which have overwhelmed our minds & bodies recently, especially over the last few days.
For weeks, outrageous images of people in underserved communities waiting for food, lining up for testing, and dying in unprecedented numbers from COVID-19 explicitly reminded us of the widening gaps and the vast inequalities which exist in our communities.
Those reminders were punctuated by the stark images of the senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, George Floyd in Minnesota, and most recently, the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin - and just as importantly, the racism, anti-black sentiment, police brutality, and systemic inequities those killings represented.
The Commonwealth Seminar categorically condemns these killings and the countless others which have preceded them through the years.
With these fresh images indelibly etched in our minds, it’s no wonder that many of our brethren in the Black/African-American community have fallen into despair, feeling trapped without any recourse, and why so many of our communities have been left burning and in chaos.
Unity… Change… Accountability… Equality… Voice… Passion… Courage… Urgency… Empathy… Purpose… Justice… Determination… Relentlessness… Perseverance, and… Hope
These are some other words that have emerged from the fires and ruins around the country. But as we attempt to rebuild (both literally and figuratively), these cannot merely be words, but rather some of the tools and motivation we utilize to turn our earlier words & emotions into action.
- We must use our collective voices to ensure that “Black Lives Matter” are not just words, but a movement which will lead to substantive,
- We must hold our legal and law enforcement system accountable as we seek justice to ensure that tragedies like these will not be in vain. -
- We must act with urgency to push forward with this systemic change.
- We must show courage to persevere in the face of sometimes hateful, forceful, and entrenched opposition.
- We must have empathy and education, across communities, to understand the pain and frustration which have led our brethren - especially
in black communities - to this level of protest.
- And we must be relentless in the weeks, months, years and decades to come to ensure that racial, economic and social equality are
not just words, but a reality.
It will be a long, difficult road. The legacy of slavery, along with hundreds of years of racism, supported by numerous government policies, will not disappear quickly, or without a struggle.
Like a virus... social injustice, prejudice and racism are deadly infections which can devastate our communities and destroy individuals and families. However, unlike COVID-19, which struck us suddenly, and where the effects have been tangible, visible, and sometimes immediate… Racism (systemic and overt) has been in our systems for years, often killing communities slowly and silently. Recent events did not just happen overnight. They were a result of years of having the virus of racism and inequality in our systems.
But we need to battle this scourge in the same way we have fought the virus that has devastated our communities. As in our battle against COVID-19, it’s only by working together, educating each other, partnering across racial, cultural and ideological lines that we will make progress to cure the disease of racism and prejudice.
Hour-by-hour, day-by-day, week-by-week, year-by-year… each and every one of us needs to be part of the cure, and everyone has to play a role. From individuals, to families, to organizations, to neighborhoods, to governments, none of us can afford to be a bystander or remain silent.
We at the Commonwealth Seminar remain steadfast to being part of the solution. With 91% of our nearly 1,400 alumni from underserved communities, and with our grads hailing from over 500 community organizations and nearly 100 cities & towns, we are committed to working with our students, allies and partners to use our platform to help build bridges and educate our communities & leaders to create systemic change.
For over fifteen years, the Seminar’s mission has been to "Open the Doors of Government to Everyone". Now, we must work together to continue changing government, so that it represents ALL of us.