Following the grand jury decision in Ferguson, MO, our CEO and Co-Founder Michael Brown shared the following message with City Year's corps and staff.
Dear City Year Corps and Staff,
In the aftermath of tonight’s grand jury announcement in Ferguson, Missouri, and this historic moment of national challenge, I wanted to reach out to share my thoughts with you.
First and foremost, as a nation, we must engage in a profound national dialogue – indeed a national soul-searching. Simply put, we must ensure that every American -- especially young men of color -- is treated with equality, respect and equal protection under the law. That is the fundamental promise of America, and it is a promise that must be upheld.
Each day we work with more than 175,000 students in 26 cities nationwide, including tens of thousands of boys of color, who we seek to provide with academic and social and emotional supports. Mostly, we do that by our daily practice and presence in their lives and our commitment to help them succeed. In light of tonight’s announcement, however, we must do even more: we must affirmatively do everything in our power to send a message to them that they are cared for, that we believe in them, and that we will stand up for them.
Second, for the students and schools we serve, at this most difficult and painful time, we must be a powerful source of peace, empathy and constructive dialogue. I encourage City Year corps members to call on our City Year values, and seek to be the greatest source of help you can be. Your students are looking to you as role models and leaders. Offer time and a safe space for your students to talk and share their feelings, and begin an honest dialogue that surely will and must continue. We should guide them towards constructive expressions, and counsel against destructive actions, reminding them that Michael Brown’s parents have asked “not to answer violence with violence.”
Finally, all of us, corps and staff alike, have a role to play in making our country more responsive, more just. As Gandhi said, we must be the change we wish to seek in the world. In every interaction, with our students, and with our fellow Americans, we must all be our brother’s keeper.
As we enter in our national holiday of Thanksgiving, I am deeply grateful to work side by side with all of you, in good times, and in challenging times, to act on our idealism and be part of a cause greater than ourselves.
Yours in service,