I wanted to send this message sooner, but I sat at my computer for many days staring at a blank screen trying to think of the words I wanted to convey in light of the George Floyd tragedy. I am heartbroken, frustrated and angry to name only a few. I look at the screen, get up, leave the computer, come back and try again. And then I finally realize I truly have no words. But that is not acceptable. For us to combat racism, we all need to have words, to speak up, to act and to listen – really listen – to our African American colleagues, community members, kids and families. We have to do better than we have – it is not an option to stay silent.
Sending this message, there are lots of things I could repeat that others have said that are extremely meaningful and also comforting. I could write those words, acknowledge whoever said them and we could just move on… But, the fact of the matter is we can’t move on until there is tremendous change in our systems and communities. The fact of the matter is it’s not just George Floyd. Its Ahmaud Arbery. Its Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, and the list goes on…
We all want to ignore painful things in our life. It’s easier to turn our heads or to avoid things that make us extremely uncomfortable. We work with uncomfortable situations every day at Pressley Ridge, and what makes us a great organization is that we don’t run away from them, we run to them. It will be no different in this situation. We are not going to run away from racism or pretend it doesn’t exist—that is not who we are. We have to do more. We must take action, be part of the change and move our communities forward to stop racism.
As part of our current strategic plan, Pressley Ridge is dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion and, ultimately, impacting systems change. We are focused on institutional and structural racism, as well as unconscious bias, and how these affect our service delivery, program design, policies and hiring practices. Within the past year, hundreds of our employees—including everyone from executive and senior-level management to direct care staff—have participated in racial equity workshops with Dr. Joyce James helping us to lay the groundwork for a multi-year process. It is our hope that, in the end, the work we are doing will leave a lasting impact on those we serve, each other and our communities, as well as the social service systems of which we are a part.
We cannot move forward until all of us work to bring about the necessary changes needed to address racism, and we aren’t going to sit back and just think about it. We have a responsibility to the kids and families we serve, as well as with our foster parents, staff and communities, to let them know we stand with them against racism and we are doing our part to take action.
President & CEO, Pressley Ridge