Statement from Executive Director
Jun. 2 2020

Statement from Executive Director

Like so many, I lie awake through the night these past four days looking at the news and the horror of the violence occurring across our country. On top of all the suffering our world has experienced over the Coronavirus, there is more… WE have all already had enough tragedy, pain and suffering for those family members who lost loved ones to the virus, the economic impact on so many, parents and individuals wondering if they would have enough food. Then this, thinking of the tragic violence, and yet more pain and suffering of so many triggered by the brutalization of a victim whose crimes we do not even know yet, but no matter what they were, we understand the actions taken that lead to his untimely and unnecessary death, are wrong!

๐—ฉ๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ฉ๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ. History has taught us many valuable lessons in this regard. We cannot and should not ignore these lessons or we are doomed to make the same mistakes or worse to accept and continue to allow pain and suffering to be inflicted on oppressed people. We tragically again witness the death of a man who was brutalized by power, by individuals who believed they were justified and worse who believed they had the power and right to inflict pain on another individual whether the intent was to kill this man or just subdue himโ€ฆThis man who has a family who loved him, friends who cared about him, a man whose has a name, George Floyd.

๐“๐จ๐๐š๐ฒ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ง๐š๐ฆ๐ž ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฆ๐š๐ง ๐ข๐ฌ ๐†๐ž๐จ๐ซ๐ ๐ž ๐…๐ฅ๐จ๐ฒ๐, ๐›๐ฎ๐ญ ๐ข๐ง ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐ฒ๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐๐š๐ฒ๐ฌ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ง๐š๐ฆ๐ž ๐ฐ๐š๐ฌ ๐‰๐จ๐ฌ๐ž๐ฉ๐ก ๐Œ๐š๐ง๐ง, ๐Œ๐ข๐ ๐ฎ๐ž๐ฅ ๐„๐ฌ๐ฉ๐ข๐ง๐š๐ฅ, ๐€๐ง๐ญ๐ซ๐จ๐ง๐ข๐ž ๐’๐œ๐จ๐ญ๐ญ, ๐€๐ฅ๐ž๐ฑ๐ข๐š ๐‚๐ก๐ซ๐ข๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐š๐ง, ๐€๐ฅ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐ข๐š ๐–๐จ๐จ๐๐ฌ, ๐‘๐š๐ง๐๐ฒ ๐๐ž๐ฅ๐ฌ๐จ๐ง, ๐‚๐ก๐ซ๐ข๐ฌ๐ญ๐จ๐ฉ๐ก๐ž๐ซ ๐–๐ก๐ข๐ญ๐Ÿ๐ข๐ž๐ฅ๐, ๐€๐ฌ๐ฌ๐ก๐š๐ฆ๐ฌ ๐๐ก๐š๐ซ๐จ๐š๐ก ๐Œ๐š๐ง๐ฅ๐ž๐ฒ, ๐‰๐จ๐ง๐š๐ญ๐ก๐จ๐ง ๐’๐š๐ง๐๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ, ๐Œ๐ฒ๐š ๐‡๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ, ๐„๐ซ๐ข๐œ ๐†๐š๐ซ๐๐ง๐ž๐ซโ€ฆโ€ฆโ€ฆโ€ฆ ๐ญ๐ก๐ข๐ฌ ๐ข๐ฌ ๐ฌ๐ฎ๐œ๐ก ๐š ๐ฌ๐ฆ๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ซ๐ž๐ฉ๐ซ๐ž๐ฌ๐ž๐ง๐ญ๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ง๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ, ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฅ๐ข๐ฌ๐ญ ๐ ๐จ๐ž๐ฌ ๐จ๐ง.

In July 2014, an observer captured the dying words of a man being subdued by the police, โ€œI canโ€™t Breathโ€ the dying words of Eric Gardner. On May 25, 2020 those same words were recorded, the last words of George Floyd โ€œI canโ€™t Breathโ€.

Since January 1,2015 the number of deaths from police shootings broken down by race: White-2,385, Black-1,252, Hispanic โ€“ 877, Other- 214. These are individuals but when you look at the percentage of the specific population a more vivid picture evolves, the percentage per million: Blacks-30%, Hispanic-22%, Whites -12%, Other โ€“ 4%.

How do we make these numbers count for something real? How do we stop these tragedies from reoccurring over and over? Is looting the answer, is attacking the police the answer, is starting fires the answer? In a rational moment very few people would answer yes to that. ๐ป๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘’๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘Ÿ, ๐‘๐‘ข๐‘ก ๐‘Ž ๐‘”๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘๐‘’๐‘œ๐‘๐‘™๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’๐‘Ÿ ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘œ โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ฃ๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘’๐‘’๐‘› ๐‘ฃ๐‘–๐‘๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘š๐‘–๐‘ง๐‘’๐‘‘, ๐‘š๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘”๐‘–๐‘›๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘–๐‘ง๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘ฆ ๐‘ ๐‘œ๐‘๐‘–๐‘’๐‘ก๐‘ฆ, ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘œ ๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘œ โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ฃ๐‘’ ๐‘’๐‘ฅ๐‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘’๐‘›๐‘๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘—๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘๐‘’๐‘ , ๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘’๐‘ž๐‘ข๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘ฆ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ โ„Ž๐‘ข๐‘š๐‘Ž๐‘› ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘›๐‘๐‘ก ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘“๐‘–๐‘”โ„Ž๐‘ก ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘˜ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘™๐‘’๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘ค๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘™๐‘‘ ๐‘˜๐‘›๐‘œ๐‘ค ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’๐‘ฆ ๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘œ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘  โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ฃ๐‘’ ๐‘˜๐‘›๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘› ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ข๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘“๐‘’๐‘’๐‘™ ๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฆ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘™. Unfortunately, this very basic instinctual response creates the opposite of empathy and very often from those in power. Power to continually oppress. Have we not unfortunately been exposed to that rhetoric in these past days from some very high ranking political leaders? Of course, not all, but how then do we help bring about the change we so desperately need, to ensure voices are not only heard, but treated with dignity, respect and to collectively bring an impact for real change.

We collectively raise our voices, not our sticks. Again, I say ๐—ฉ๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ฉ๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ. If we look at some of the most significant movements in our history where individuals rose-up in peaceful but meaningful uprisings to bring about change, we would see the likes of Mahatma Gandhi who helped the world understand the importance of a nonviolent approach to solving conflicts. Even Nelson Mandela who spent his life fighting anti-apartheid (at times willing to use violence) later in life spoke to lessons he had learned and the power of non-violence. At the age of 88, Mandela spoke of Gandhiโ€™s โ€œ satyagrahaโ€ or non-violent movement โ€œHis philosophy contributed in no small measure to bringing about a peaceful transformation in South Africa and in healing the destructive human divisions that had been spawned by the abhorrent practice of apartheidโ€ Mandela went on to refer to Gandhi as โ€œthe sacred warriorโ€ โ€œMahatma combined ethics and morality with steely resolve that refused to compromise with the oppressor, the British Empireโ€ฆ.In a world driven by violence and strife, Gandhiโ€™s message of peace and non-violence holds the key to human survival in the 21st centuryโ€ Nelson Mandela.

So as I stated in my opening ๐—ฉ๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ฉ๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ. and hopefully we all know where that phrase comes from:
โ€œ๐‘ฏ๐’‚๐’•๐’† ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’ˆ๐’†๐’•๐’” ๐’‰๐’‚๐’•๐’†; ๐’—๐’Š๐’๐’๐’†๐’๐’„๐’† ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’ˆ๐’†๐’•๐’” ๐’—๐’Š๐’๐’๐’†๐’๐’„๐’†; ๐’•๐’๐’–๐’ˆ๐’‰๐’๐’†๐’”๐’” ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’ˆ๐’†๐’•๐’” ๐’‚ ๐’ˆ๐’“๐’†๐’‚๐’•๐’†๐’“ ๐’•๐’๐’–๐’ˆ๐’‰๐’๐’†๐’”๐’”. ๐‘พ๐’† ๐’Ž๐’–๐’”๐’• ๐’Ž๐’†๐’†๐’• ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‡๐’๐’“๐’„๐’†๐’” ๐’๐’‡ ๐’‰๐’‚๐’•๐’† ๐’˜๐’Š๐’•๐’‰ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‘๐’๐’˜๐’†๐’“ ๐’๐’‡ ๐’๐’๐’—๐’†โ€ฆ๐‘ถ๐’–๐’“ ๐’‚๐’Š๐’Ž ๐’Ž๐’–๐’”๐’• ๐’๐’†๐’—๐’†๐’“ ๐’ƒ๐’† ๐’•๐’ ๐’…๐’†๐’‡๐’†๐’‚๐’• ๐’๐’“ ๐’‰๐’–๐’Ž๐’Š๐’๐’Š๐’‚๐’•๐’† ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’˜๐’‰๐’Š๐’•๐’† ๐’Ž๐’‚๐’, ๐’ƒ๐’–๐’• ๐’•๐’ ๐’˜๐’Š๐’ ๐’‰๐’Š๐’” ๐’‡๐’“๐’Š๐’†๐’๐’…๐’”๐’‰๐’Š๐’‘ ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’–๐’๐’…๐’†๐’“๐’”๐’•๐’‚๐’๐’…๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ.โ€ ๐‘ด๐’‚๐’“๐’•๐’Š๐’ ๐‘ณ๐’–๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’“ ๐‘ฒ๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ.

Enough violence, enough discrimination, enough inequality, it is time we all combine our โ€œethics and morality into a steely resolve and refuse to compromise with those that would continue to oppressโ€ no matter the reason or the individuals or groups who are being targeted and to remember the acts of a few individuals does not represent the collective. Not all police officers are unethical and immoral, but when the system uncovers those that there are it cannot ignore or hide the truth. No-one should fear the individuals who are intended to signify safety and protection. If allowed, they can and should be part of the solution. After all they too are a force made up of our community members and a dialogue needs to happen. However, with threats of violence that dialogue cannot and will not happen.

๐–๐ž ๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐ฌ๐จ ๐›๐ฅ๐ž๐ฌ๐ฌ๐ž๐ ๐ข๐ง ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐œ๐จ๐ฆ๐ฆ๐ฎ๐ง๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ ๐š๐ฌ ๐ฐ๐ž ๐ก๐š๐ฏ๐ž ๐ฌ๐ž๐ž๐ง ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฉ๐จ๐ฐ๐ž๐ซ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ฉ๐ž๐š๐œ๐ž๐Ÿ๐ฎ๐ฅ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ฆ๐ž๐š๐ง๐ข๐ง๐ ๐Ÿ๐ฎ๐ฅ ๐ฉ๐ซ๐จ๐ญ๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ฌ. It is what we all need to promote at this time in order for our nation to heal and move forward towards justice and fairness for all no matter the color of our skin or the money or lack of money in our pockets.

๐‘ด๐’‚๐’š ๐’˜๐’† ๐’‚๐’๐’ ๐’“๐’‚๐’Š๐’”๐’† ๐’๐’–๐’“ ๐’—๐’๐’Š๐’„๐’† ๐’•๐’ ๐’‘๐’–๐’• ๐’‚๐’ ๐’†๐’๐’… ๐’•๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’–๐’”๐’† ๐’๐’‡ ๐’‘๐’๐’˜๐’†๐’“ ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’ƒ๐’Š๐’‚๐’” ๐’•๐’‰๐’‚๐’• ๐’‰๐’‚๐’“๐’Ž๐’” ๐’๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’“๐’”. Part of human nature is that we all develop prejudice as we grow and learn from our surroundings not only from those who raise us, but from all the experiences we have as growing children. From experiences that brought us happiness to those that brought us fear, or those that are different from us. Humans are not born with predetermined prejudice, it is a learned experience. When we understand that and can look at our own prejudices that is when we have the ability to change our response.

๐–๐ž ๐ฉ๐ซ๐š๐ฒ ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐ก๐ž๐š๐ฅ๐ข๐ง๐  ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ฉ๐ž๐š๐œ๐ž ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐†๐ž๐จ๐ซ๐ ๐ž ๐…๐ฅ๐จ๐ฒ๐โ€™๐ฌ ๐Ÿ๐š๐ฆ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฒ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ญ๐จ ๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ฐ๐ก๐จ๐ฌ๐ž ๐ฅ๐ข๐ฏ๐ž๐ฌ ๐ฐ๐ž๐ซ๐ž ๐ฅ๐จ๐ฌ๐ญ ๐›๐ž๐œ๐š๐ฎ๐ฌ๐ž ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ฌ๐จ๐œ๐ข๐š๐ฅ ๐ข๐ง๐ฃ๐ฎ๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐œ๐ž๐ฌ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ข๐ฆ๐ฉ๐š๐œ๐ญ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐จ๐ฉ๐ฉ๐ซ๐ž๐ฌ๐ฌ๐ข๐จ๐ง.๐Ÿ–ค

-Sandy Soroka, Executive Director