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Black Lives Matter at City Year Seattle

Dear City Year Champions,

I’m reaching out to acknowledge the pain that our community is feeling right now related to the murder of George Floyd and so many others. To members of our community who are personally impacted by this continued violence, City Year Seattle stands with you. I wanted to share with you how we are managing through the nation’s response to these murders and the epidemic of police violence on people of color.

On a personal level, this has been a hard week for me. I count myself fortunate, that as a 44 year old black man, I have never had a negative interaction with the police. This is a fact that I can only attribute to luck and not the way I have navigated the world. That said, I still get that nervous feeling in my gut, and actively think about how to not appear threatening when I know I am going to have an interaction with a police officer, whether I am reporting a crime or being stopped for a traffic violation. This week has brought the feeling of fear that I keep locked away for these short interactions to the surface. I have a heightened awareness that my safety is not in my control. I am happy that today was better than yesterday and I know tomorrow will be better than today.

I believe our race and equity work with the corps and the staff is helping navigate us through this moment. ​We host five full-day Race and Equity Summits for our staff and AmeriCorps Members to come together and examine our own identities and our relationship to power and privilege as related to systems of inequity, as well as our role in creating a more equitable education experience for the students we serve. This week we have created virtual spaces for the corps and staff to process their feeling and be in community with one another. With one week of service left, many corps members are still choosing to support their students and partner teachers. Additionally, City Year nationally has allowed additional time off for corps and staff that need some time to process, grieve, or engage with the community. I am proud to work for an organization that understands this is not the time we can do business as usual.

In the strategic plan, developed last year, we set a vision for the site to grow into an anti-racist, youth-centered organization. In service of that goal, ​we plan to hire a new staff member, a Race and Equity Manager, in the coming months to lead aspects of our equity work, removing that burden from dedicated staff of color who have started, led, and carried this work in recent years. We are also looking deeply at our internal systems and processes to better notice white supremacy cultural norms within our own organization and work toward building equitable systems. This work and intentionality is making a difference but we still have a long way to go.

I​n this time, I urge you each to lean into your role as an ally or co-conspirator to advance the cause of equity for black and brown people in our community. I encourage you to get uncomfortable. Lean into the discomfort of a difficult conversation with a friend or colleague about race, or the effort to change an inequitable policy or practice at your organization. Learning about the systemic and cultural inequities is a necessary but insufficient step to changing “the system.” We now must share what we learned with others and use our positional authority and personal capital to make change in ourselves, our organizations and our communities.

Thank you for your support of City Year Seattle.

In Service,

Lee Lambert

Vice President/Executive Director

City Year Seattle/King County

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