This is a painful time for anyone committed to freedom, equality and justice for all.
At Hands of Peace, we are devastated by the senseless killing of George Floyd by police. His death, along with the murders of so many other black men, women and children, is the brutal and deadly consequence of a long history of racial injustice in the United States. We stand with our black alumni, families and communities who, every single day, battle unconscionable racial prejudice, injustice and violence on the street, in the workplace and even in their own homes.
Systemic racism cannot be ignored if the United States is to form a “more perfect union.” This is the time to be bold and courageous. Change requires solidarity, commitment and yes, at times, civil disobedience to hold accountable institutions and individuals who benefit from the status quo.
Hands of Peace is committed to freedom, equality and justice. We believe in the same freedoms for all, including freedom of movement, freedom from fear, freedom from violence and freedom from oppression. We believe in our common humanity and the value of each and every human life.
Now, more than ever, we also believe the future depends on the leadership of the next generation. We are preparing our young leaders to raise their voices to demand justice and peacefully fight for change, but first we need to make sure that we are doing the same.
As an organization, we have struggled to draw more people of color to our Board, committees and staff. We are committed to working on bringing more diverse voices into our leadership with urgency and with awareness of the fact that diverse groups make better decisions.
We urge white youth and adults to listen to black neighbors, colleagues, and commentators. At the same time, do not burden them with the task of educating you, for they may be weary with the pain and struggle they face through these repeated incidents. Be sensitive and aware of their needs and capacity to engage, follow their lead as you educate yourself. Read widely and deeply for new perspectives. Have intergenerational conversations about institutional racism and about your own racial biases. Follow, hear, and learn from the many social media posts by our alumni. Work to understand and change the ways in which we perpetuate systemic violence against black people.
To our alumni, continue to call out injustice and seek change. Join your fellow Hands of Peace alumni and other high school and college students for “Raising Youth Voices: A Conversation about Racism.” This facilitated dialogue will be led by youth for youth.
As we Reimagine Hands of Peace, we will explore ways to more effectively engage our participants, alumni and communities in these critical conversations about institutional racism, injustice, and human dignity.
Our mission to empower youth leaders is more critical than ever. We thank you for your unyielding compassion and willingness to make a long-term commitment to this urgent call for equality. We have a lot more to do, together.