A Statement from our Executive Director- Rilwan Feyisitan, Jr.
The recent unlawful killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, along with countless others by those sworn to uphold the law and preserve life has left us collectively feeling like we can’t breathe. Our country and state is being forced again to confront our nations well established history of systemic racism and oppression of certain groups. We are ever reminded as a country that our perfect union is not perfect for so many in our society.
It took me some time to formulate this response. I like many of you are going through the gambit of emotions ranging from hurt, anger, emboldened, and empathy for those in the black community that fall victim to these unjustified murders that don’t always make the national news cycles. I share my birthday with the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I am often drawn to his writings during times like this. I think we are all trying to find our way during these dark times. You will see several quotes from Dr. King Jr. (MLK) that I reference that help me to have some semblance of clarity in these challenging times.
I like many of you had been consumed in recent months by how to meet the needs of the most vulnerable among us during a global pandemic. CAPP serves our Capitol City and Providence County, which has by far the most COVID-19 positive cases in the state. We see the disproportionate impact on black and brown communities of color and the undocumented in our state as well. CAPP unapologetically supports Black Lives Matter. We also recognize the issues of systematic sanctioned brutality, racism and oppression must be addressed for all those marginalized and targeted in our nation.
Dr. King said: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
CAPP’s Board of Directors and staff stand in solidarity with the Black Community and those demanding acknowledgement and accountability for the devaluation and dehumanization of Black life at the hands of the police and other established systems of oppression. The trauma, fear and grief the black community is feeling is real and ever present. We also acknowledge that organized protest and development of a community voice are part of our great democracy and often help to advance positive change. They should not become synonymous with looting and criminal activity when the Black community exercises its’ right to free speech. Let your truth be heard. Civil disobedience is not new for our state or nation. It is our collective responsibility of ours to listen and advance positive changes.
“A riot is the language of the unheard.” MLK
What is CAPP’s response and how are we moving forward?
We are committed first to having a safe space within our organization that supports ongoing learning and creates greater empathy and understanding. Cultural humility and emotional intelligence trainings are required across the organization. Our leadership team and I are doing an even deeper dive into transformational diversity and inclusion work. One of our partners shared something they read that resonated with me as well “Educate yourself. This doesn’t go away once the topic isn’t trending. Racism is a problem too complex and too painful to simply make a statement and then continue with a ‘business as usual’ mindset. We’re approaching this as a journey – one where we will need to continue learning and driving action over time. “CAPP too is creating safe spaces to spark frank conversations among our partners and residents about race, systemic injustice and the best ways we can learn, empathize, act and drive lasting change.
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.” MLK
CAPP will continue to work with partners and stakeholders to collaborate on the development and execution of effective programs and systems that can address racism and poverty. Racism and Poverty often intersect for disenfranchised and marginalized people and communities at the same point of struggle. CAPP will lead or join in coalition with those that work to address systemic oppression and racism as root cause for preventable societal issues like but not limited to – food insecurity, housing insecurity, access to quality education, unemployment, and adequate healthcare.
For those leaders and organizations not moved to address the senseless murders of unarmed black people and oppressed people of any identity. I remind you of this quote from Dr. King Jr.
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” MLK
We find ourselves in challenging and unprecedented times. The anger and civil unrest that we are witnessing across the country and in our own state was a long coming. The senseless killing of George Floyd and others is not new to the Black community. Racism, profiling, and tolerance of this behavior has had a collective impact on the Black Community and communities of color in general. It’s pervasive and should be unacceptable in this state and any country.
I leave you with this final quote-
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” – Martin Luther King Jr.