From the desk of our Founding Director, Dr. Valerie Batts:
VISIONS began because of a burning desire among our founders, children of the US civil rights movement, to do our part to help end the legacy of racism against black folk (and all oppressed people). We and our ancestors have been the targets of structural and personal violence since coming to these shores in 1619. 2020 finds this legacy, which resulted in our country being formed with a dangerous “crack in the foundation”, painfully exposed again! VISIONS now more than ever. I am delighted that, as our new leader, Elika, gets this! Her note below was started even before we were encouraged to share with the community about our response.
As the mother of a black son and as the sister of two deceased (before their time) black brothers, I feel this pain very personally. I see how it also impacts my daughter and so many of my black colleagues and friends. It must stop!
I appreciate when people who get white skinned privilege own it and own their role in fixing this country’s faulty foundation. Otherwise, the “house” WILL fall. In the words of Sweet Honey and the Rock, “Until the killing of black men, black mother’s sons, is as important as the killing of white men, white mother’s sons, we who believe in freedom, cannot (will not) rest!”
The struggle continues!
From the desk of our new Executive Director, Elika Dadsetan-Foley:
Being Black in America should not be a death sentence. We hear these words stated by every day well-intentioned folx, as well as decision- and policy-makers. Yet, every day, we hear about another death… and again, by an individual who has been hired to protect and serve - serve whom? It’s clear that it is not all people. This is part of why we say “black lives matter.” It is a stark reminder that these systems were not developed to serve all – they were developed to serve the white privileged. The officer in Minnesota not only failed to do his job, he also failed at the most basic level of being a decent humxn being. The violence of white supremacy has struck again, as it has continued to do so since our founding and the hundreds of years since.
I am not a black man, nor do I have a black son. I have not been able to sleep thinking about all the black families who are constantly traumatized and re-traumatized by such events. I imagine this could have been any of the black men in my life whom I love. It’s not about me - it can’t be. That is part of my privilege. I am not here to tell you that I am one of the good ones. I am not in shock - racism never went away, and in this current context, it is just as “in your face” as it ever was. Our institutions just openly allow for these behaviors again, and no one can pretend “racism does not exist” anymore. Mr. George Floyd was someone’s son. Someone’s family. Someone’s friend. He was a humxn being, and his life mattered: except it didn’t.
Having a corrupt system do an investigation into what happened does not matter…nothing justifies this murder…a police officer putting a knee on this man’s neck not for a moment, but for over eight minutes. Eight. Minutes. Just try sitting for eight minutes… it’s an awfully long time. This officer had been known for previous violence - yet kept his job. It’s the fact that our systems, and our entire country, continues to allow this to happen. Four murder charges is not enough…this is just one incident. As I write this, I hear about another injustice done at the hands of police officers against Sha’Teina Grady El in Detroit. When will it end?
White supremacy kills Black people both quickly, through such acts as we continue to see, as well as slowly. White supremacy kills on the personal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional level.
When there are individuals who are upset about why Kaepernick kneeled, and yet they cannot embrace the horror of the structural causes of these killings, we have a major issue. As Bernice King stated in such cases, “you are more devoted to order than to justice, and more passionate about an anthem that supposedly symbolizes freedom than you are about a Black man’s freedom to live.” There is no true justice for our black brothers and sisters, especially if those of us with white privilege stay quiet, or merely just get mad. White folx cannot let their fragility get in the way.
We are living in a world that permits the murder of black men by white men in the name of law and order. White folx, we need to stop and take an honest look at our part in this - at the reactions we have to these stories, and how we respond to the overt and covert racism inside and around us, every day.
We experienced Mr. Floyd’s death and the attempted murder of Mr. Cooper in Central Park in full effect because these incidents were recorded…Christian Cooper was lucky to have recorded his encounter and live to recount the event…however, Mr. Floyd, even with cell phones recording the officers and witnesses pleading with the officers, still got his death sentence. This is not just another random act. Black people everywhere are dying by the hands of police and other facets of our government. I can only imagine what a gut-wrenching reminder this is to all who share his color of skin.
When I hear "I supported protest until it became violent" - this only perpetuates the problem we are trying to solve by allowing folx to ignore the crisis that has created this painful situation. If the same effort was put into arresting other officers and those who create hate and divide as we have the thousands of peaceful protesters over the past few days, we'd be taking a step in the right direction. I hope this is an opportunity to rethink our systems of policing - to develop space for social workers, restorative practitioners, and others better-equipped than police officers. I continue to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, and it is a reminder of why we show up every day to do the work we do at VISIONS.
Help us continue to do this important work - VISIONS now more than ever!