We watched the murder of George Floyd in horror and are now seeing the response of a society that can’t agree on simple facts: this violence was unjustifiable and no human being should ever be treated like this. That these simple facts are not widely accepted is shocking and we cannot be silent.
We jeopardize lives with regularity (both fatally, like George Floyd, and non-fatally, like Christian Cooper, a birdwatcher protecting nature in NYC’s Central Park) when we continue to support systemic structures that give a disproportionate amount of power to some groups over others. This includes failing to recognize and identify these systems as problematic; if they aren’t recognized by everyone, they certainly aren’t being worked on by everyone. We as a society fail.
So we ask ourselves here at Trail Blazers, “Do we fully recognize these structures? Do we actively work against them as best we can?” When we completed our Strategic Plan this past winter, we affirmed the principles and the values at the root of our 133-year history. In the last few days, it was to those very principles and values that we went first, in order to respond to these atrocities. Two stand out:
· Diversity and Belonging as a program pillar. Bringing people from all walks of life together has always been central to our work. It is essential to spend time with people who you think are not like you, so you can find out how much they are and celebrate differences where they exist.
· Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as an overarching lens. The development of our Strategic Plan led us to one main realization: DEI should be the lens through which everything is considered at Trail Blazers.
And yet, at this moment, it is painfully clear that this is not enough to push us to where we need to be.
It is not enough for us to denounce racism; Trail Blazers must become a truly anti-racist organization. Being “not racist” and being actively “anti-racist” are not the same; one resource for learning the difference is here. There is a lot of work we all still have to do here at Trail Blazers. We are recommitting to this work to become truly anti-racist, in all its facets. We are also recommitting to the work of ensuring we actively support other marginalized communities as well. In the next few weeks, months, and years, we will double down on understanding how this plays out in our lives and how this shows up in the work we do. This will be organization-wide, from staff to board members. We will challenge ourselves, and you, to grow in our ability to understand our responsibilities, to condemn violence and aggression toward communities of color and other marginalized communities. Finally, to examine and address systems and policies that create inequality. This is on-going, continual work.
The community work that camps and after school programs, like Trail Blazers, do is invaluable in this fight but we need to do better in order to make enduring change. We believe in young people, we know they are never too young to learn about our world and learn how to be a positive influence in it. Below are resources we will be sharing with our families. We invite you to share with your own families and communities and join us in this mission. If you have additional resources, we invite you to share them with us.
Sesame Street Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism Town Hall this Saturday at 10 am ET:
Talking Race with Young Children from NPR and Sesame Street:
Books to help you explain racism and protests to your kids:
Additional resources on talking to kids about racism and justice:
We are in this fight together.
On behalf of our Board of Trustees and our staff, we hope that you are safe from harm, that you weather the ongoing COVID-19 challenges, and that we emerge as a better and stronger society.
Riel Peerbooms, MSW