An Anti-Racism Message to the Chewonki Community

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An Anti-Racism Message to the Chewonki Community

The death of George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer, recorded for nearly nine horrifying minutes, opened a floodgate of pain for so many over the past week. The outrage grows inside each of us as this sickening event builds on so many others to further expose racism in our society and in ourselves. 

We are speaking up today, as white leaders of a predominantly white institution, in solidarity with black and indigenous communities, as well as other communities of color, to join the growing chorus saying “black lives matter,” and to do our part to stop systemic discrimination and persecution of marginalized communities in the United States.

We write to mourn the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, along with the painfully long list of other terrorized victims – and pledge to work with those in our community striving for a more equitable, just, and safe country. These tragic and needless deaths have added injury atop the painful reminder of systemic racism and inequities in our country highlighted by the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color.

Breaking the “white silence” about race is important for us as individuals and for Chewonki as an institution. We acknowledge the uncomfortable dualism of decrying the wrongs of the system while also recognizing the ways it has benefitted us as individuals. Leaning into that discomfort, we need to send a message befitting our roles as teachers, mentors, leaders, and role models to the thousands of students, campers, and adults in our community who are watching what we say and do…and also what we fail to say, and fail to do. We join with our alumni and friends who have reached out to us, who are speaking up, and who are leading the way in their communities.

During a listening session yesterday, one Chewonki staff member insightfully commented that “transformative growth,” a pillar of our mission, requires acknowledging, examining, and letting go of past behaviors, habits, and beliefs; it means a change in culture for the individual and the group. We cannot possibly build “thriving, sustainable communities” when so many of us are denied safety, dignity, and equitable treatment under the law. 

For us and Chewonki that means persistent learning, educating, and training about race, bias, and systemic racism for participants, staff, and board. It means actively adjusting systems, structures, and policies to increase equity, address areas of growth, and expand the spaces in our culture for those who were not historically at the center of Chewonki. 

The white members of our community must do this work together, no matter how hard it is. And to the black members of our community, the indigenous members of our community, and the other people of color in our community, we strive to be accountable to you and support anti-racism work in our world, our schools, our organization, our policies, and our hearts.

Below we have included select resources geared towards white community members to inform learning, parenting, and leading. They are sourced from our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) task force members, peer institution leaders, and respected DEI practitioners. 

We are broken-hearted, like many of you, feeling the pain of these times. We stand, speak, and act together. Onward.

Sincerely,

Willard Morgan
President

Roseanne Saalfield
Chair, Board of Trustees

Selected resources:

 

 

Teaching about Race, Racism, and Policy Violence: A resource from Teaching Tolerance for educators to address subjects in the classroom.