Why it was important to create to a safe space to discuss Police Shootings of Black People at my workplace: UNCF.

Is this the new norm?

Wednesday night, a colleague and I collaborated around the idea of convening our colleagues together in an act of solidarity. Our recommendation was fully supported by our CEO and all business unit leadership. Our CEO crafted an internal memo encouraging employees to express their grief and frustration through the power of community. We invited all organizations within our building: Teach for America, Education Forward DC (formerly New School Venture Fund), Greater Washington Urban League, Teach for All, and others to join us. And join us they did. We gathered, cried, voiced and expressed our grief and frustration. We hope whatever small part we initiated is hopefully one step in a collective national movement that continues. We are all organizations with shared synergies of impacting the youth that we serve around educational advancement and work tirelessly within the K-12 markets in addition to higher education. We provide students and scholars with the critical financial resources and enriching research and academic experiences to support their training and development to become global leaders. Opportunities around educational advancement is our equalizer to the injustices witnessed daily. We know we can no longer operate in silos. And must collaborate to amplify our voices and those for the next generations we serve.

Yesterday morning, I was nervous as I used DC Metro — on guard carefully observing the DC police as I moved quietly to my final destination. I suspected other African Americans felt the same way…

Several thoughts resonated:

“Should I walk closely next to a Black Person on the metro or will that cause too much attention?”

Or

“Should I move quietly next to my white counterparts?”

“Should I worry about the black boy next to me alone on the metro headed to summer camp?” I wondered did others think this

…. As I finally entered work yesterday after yet another video surfaced… this time of #PhilandoCastile , I felt the morale at UNCF was down. The air felt stale. We felt hopeless and uninspired to carry out our passionate work and the mission of the organization. Community lines have become blurred and these inexcusable, tragic, events affect us all.

How could we continue our work awarding underrepresented minorities scholarships when these students were in fact at risk?

But in reality, I realized, in order for us to move forward and be the sounding board for the students we serve, the students who look to UNCF and its employees as mentors, we must acknowledge the problem and figure out how to grieve ourselves. It’s okay to feel how you feel and express your emotions. It’s okay to cry at work. We are human.

And we simply tell our students they are the hope for a better day.

The work that we all do at 1805 7th Street NW Washington ( College Success Foundation, Education Forward DC ( formally New School Venture Fund DC), Greater Washington Urban League, Teach for America, Teach for All), is so important. It’s solid work. We just have to work harder for our impact to reach, to impact the communities we serve. And not fight the fight alone. But fight the good fight together till #BlackLivesMatter, until we are respected for our #intersectionality

I encourage all to take a stand and motivate your organizations to rally or create safe spaces for grieving ‪#‎WeStandUnited‬ #WeWontBeSilent

Hopefully, this necessary discussion containing a melting pot of good minds, hope and faith will help us…

RISE…one day

We may fail in our efforts to eliminate evil and systematic injustices but we will fail together and rise again.

Thanks to all of the organizers, leaders, supporters, and advocates. Special thanks to Joakina Stone, Naomi Shelton, LaJuan Lyles, Melony Westbrook, Lu Duong, Jonathan Atkins, and all of UNCF Leadership! And most importantly, thanks to my beautiful Black Queen, Ashlei Stevens for serving as my counterpart in galvanizing the organizations and lifting our voices.

Keep fighting

Update:

Last night, I attended the DC March from the Capitol and heard from the same polictians who sat on the House floor protesting gun control. As we descended upon The Capitol with my mentee and her mom, I wondered why am I marching, is this going to do any good? But there was still a little bit of hope left in the hundreds of people marching…we all knew we had to start somewhere.

I got home late last night and turned the tv to find out police officers had been shot and killed at a rally in Dallas. And I cried again. These snipers who retaliated sat us 10 steps back from recovery. Turned our peaceful #BlackLivesMatter protest in acts of violence. I know when people feel powerless, things like this happen. My heart sobs for the black lives taken unjustly and equally for police offices who lives were taken in Dallas. And now I’m texting all of my black sisters and brothers to be safe and not move in large crowds. I’m afraid for my 18 year old cousin who is in possession of a brand new 2013 vehicle purchased by my mom. My mom and I advised him of tactics to take when police stop — where he should place his hands and say sir at all times. This is our reality, the new norm.

Where do we go from here?

We are hoping to continue the discussion next week and have a town hall meeting the same organizations. And possibly having Greater Washington Urban League provide us with actions we can take as individuals.

Today I sent an email to all of the students I serve in various programs. Sample below:

Student response