June Newsletter

Volume 2.10
June 9, 2020

Dear Friends,
            We are living in uncertain and unsettling times. With the asphyxiation of George Floyd, we have seen images over and over and over again of the face of a police officer with his knee on the neck and his body on the back of a man in handcuffs held face down on the ground appealing to others (including his deceased mother) to be permitted to breathe. The officer looks directly and unapologetically into the camera as the man lay dying and then dead, and he conveys, rather shockingly in fact, not hate (which would be bad enough), but outrageous indifference to human suffering. 
            Such scenes of brutality in the United States of America are, of course, not at all new. If you know the history of the nation, then you also know that these times are really quite ordinary and have been ongoing generation after generation after generation after generation. Even when you don’t know the nation’s history, however, anyone who has lived a few decades knows that brutality (by police and others) and various acts of discrimination and white supremacy have been interwoven into the American experience. This time, however, the ordinary and the ongoing feel a little different. Amid the devastating pandemic of COVID-19, the clear and present social disparities that have been made inescapable by this pandemic, the economic despair that plagues huge numbers of American citizens, the crisis in leadership that we are experiencing in so many ways, the shocking and relentless displays of racial discrimination and violence—amid all of that and more, there seems to be a rising wave of consciousness. Somehow, across all sorts of groups and communities, an energy seems to be building—FINALLY, maybe—for the declaration of human rights, civil rights, and socio-political accountability.  In larger and larger numbers, citizens of a nation that proclaims truth, freedom, justice, and equality as bedrock values are saying:  Enough now.  Enough.

       This past week, we have really needed a minute to mourn our losses; to honor our struggles; to think about where, as a nation, we have been, where we are now, and what systems, practices, and processes have brought us to this persistently problematic space. We really needed a minute to see, not just that we have liabilities as a nation—we most certainly do, but that we also have a choice:  to be far better than we are now IF we have the will to act (rather than distract) and the will to do the hard work that it will take to implement and sustain those actions (rather than just talk, mourn, and move on without making a difference).
       Last week, we had a minute. This week, the hard work remains. What is that work? What do we do now to move toward a more perfect nation? What is indisputable is that that there really are answers—multi-layered answers— to these questions, as demonstrated by the Police Reform Bill that is now in the hands of the U.S. Congress. To be sure, the things that we need to do and need to do now are not a mystery. The list, in fact, is explicit, and manageable IF, again, we have the individual and collective will to act. Among those actions are these:
  • Commit yourself to living deliberately with compassion and respect as a human being in the presence of other human beings, both like and unlike yourself. This task is a never-ending one in the struggle for freedom, justice, and equality—one person at a time.
  • Educate yourself about the histories and cultures of peoples within this nation and others around the globe. We know that it is harder to be inhumane to those whom you recognize, whom you have gotten to know, and whom you have come to respect.
  • Take seriously your obligation to be a value added in bringing forward meaningful and sustainable change. We know that peace and justice requires us all to do our parts. The work, then, is:
    • To open your eyes (and other sensibilities) to the worlds around us.
    • To open your heart to the reality that we are not the center of the universe but share space with other beings on a small and quite fragile planet.
    • To open your mind to the requirement that creating a better world requires each of us to work deliberately and deliberatively toward actually making one. 
    • To pay critical attention to the complexities of interests and concerns, and to the ever-presence of issues and challenges as we find ways to work with others to build trust, to make a meaningful difference, and to sustain peace.
  • Recognize, in addressing issues and challenges, the need to:
    • Acknowledge multiple stakeholders across our communities.
    • Be careful and conscientious about the ways that we use language and communicate with others.
    • Use evidence-based approaches in both problems-posing and problems-solving.
    • Give full consideration to the impacts and consequences of decisions on people, on other living beings, on the environment.
    • Be inclusive and transparent in articulating policies and practices designed to support, implement, and sustain change.
    • Establish systems to provide oversight for actions and to monitor their effectiveness and efficiency.
    • Specify and deploy systems of authority, responsibility, and accountability that are capable of enabling equity and justice.  
  • Know that hope is not about bemoaning your fate but about engaging in ethical actions, not just in your own interests but in the interests of others and in the interests, as well, of generations to come.

I have been thinking quite a bit about the inspirational words of two people.  One of those people is Abraham Lincoln and the address that he gave at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863, after one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. He needed to deliver a speech to bring honor to those who had experienced the battle and hope to a nation that needed to find ways to move forward. Critical among his words was this:
In this case, many participants in the current protests are “bloodied” by their battles of various kinds, whether their wounds have been direct hits from discrimination, oppression, or violence, or whether they have become consciously and compassionately aware of the relentless wounding and struggling of others. Most certainly, for four hundred years African Americans have faced a constant struggle to live, a constant struggle to thrive, a constant struggle to feel safe amid persistent hostilities; a constant concern for the lives and safety of their children. Now is the time for change. The urgency at this moment, with things feeling so different this time, is that both exhaustion and impatience are in the air. It is time, past time, for this nation to “have a new birth of freedom” so that the values of the nation (truth, freedom, justice, equality) “shall not perish from the earth.” It is time.

The other words that I keep thinking about are from a song by Holly Near (2006), American singer, songwriter, and activist. One section of “I Am Willing” actually feels to me like a prayer:

If during this pandemic we can keep ourselves alive and healthy, we have an opportunity to listen to our children, young and not so young, who are hopeful, amazingly articulate about what should not exist in the 21st century, greatly attuned to the realities that we face in fomenting change, and quite passionate about their commitments to being clearer and better in facing challenges than we have ever been. Watching and listening to them, we have an opportunity to think better about our future and theirs; to take seriously the necessity of having leaders at all levels who are capable of exhibiting and exercising genuine excellence, starting at the top and moving throughout our system of governance. We have an opportunity to embrace the changes that we need to set in motion now in order to create a more perfect nation and to sustain it, and we have the opportunity not to be afraid as we do the hard work of making the world a better place—not because we fear the uncertain and unsettling, but because we care about and respect the human beings around us—near and far, and the places and spaces that we call home. The touchstone is that we know that there is work that we can actually do now, starting with the list of actions above, and knowing that what we can not do is nothing.
I hope that you keep yourself awake to our possibilities, alive, and well.
Jackie Royster
CEO, Communities Who Know, Inc. ™
Photo credits — Top left: George Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, on his friend Stephen Jackson’s shoulders; featured in Hola.com on June 4, 2020.
Bottom Left: Kobe Bryant and daughters; photo taken by Vanessa Bryant and shared on Instagram @vanessabryant on January 30, 2020. 
Right: Giles Royster and daughter, photo by Jackie Royster.
This Father’s Day, let us cherish and honor the men in our lives:
those who are fathers, or like fathers to us;
our brothers, and those like brothers to us;
our cousins; and our sons. 

June 21, 2020
If you have announcements that you would like to share, please note two important points:
  • The old email account for Westside Communities Alliance has been closed.  Please direct messages and send flyers and announcements to:  info@communitieswhoknow.com 
  • Currently, the CWK Newsletter will be posted monthly – in the first half of the month. Please submit your flyers and other relevant information to the email address above – as close to the beginning of the month as possible. Thank you!
Communities Who Know, Inc. is grateful for the assistance of Joanna Gabriel in designing and producing the CWK Newsletter

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