Instead of a single organizational statement as our community and our nation react to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and countless other acts of racist violence in our nation, we asked our staff to share their thoughts and feelings individually. These powerful and painful words serve as MAHA’s collective statement. Black lives matter.
I am in pain. As a black man, the life I live is very layered. It’s a life of culture and stories that every once in a while makes me say “wow.” Unfortunately sometimes the “wow” is not an expression of being impressed, and is more of a question of how am I still here. How am I able to keep getting up each day to keep moving forward even though I’m suffering. The black lived experience is one of pure resilience. It’s filled with many proud moments that try to balance the traumatizing ones. Moments that you’re hyper aware of the need to present yourself a certain way because you know your life depends on how someone else sees you. We do not want our allies to not see our color because when you say you don’t see color you will fail to see the aggression that people have against that color. Our lives are on the line and we will fight for the change we need. All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter.
My heart swells, my soul screams and my body aches as I face the reality of raising my Black son in America. It is truly disheartening to witness the police brutality and systemic injustices that impact Black communities around the nation. Although social media and the news make it feel like protesting is wrong, it is not wrong. When you place all the collective deaths that have occurred since the last protest, impact of COVID-19 in low income Black communities, and the everyday institutional racism Blacks experience in a pressure cooker, it is bound to burst.
I hope change will come soon in this country. I truly believe there is more of a need today than ever to rebuild Black Wall Street and close the wealth gap of the black families. I will continue to facilitate homebuying and homeownership classes with zeal to encourage and support clients through this process, in hopes of creating generational wealth for more families in Massachusetts.
I am grateful to be part of MAHA's diverse staff of Black and white, immigrant and native born, men and women, older and younger. As a white woman I read and listen but realize I will never experience the same fear of racist violence on the necks of blacks and especially black men. I appreciate my coworkers of color who have the trust to share their experiences, emotions and reactions to current events. Together we can grow. While I am saddened by the violence in Boston and other cities, to blame it on outsiders deflects the culprit, systemic racism in our criminal justice, education, health, employment and our little corner - housing. Sometimes it just explodes and that has happened time and again in my lifetime. Yet I still believe that we need to get up every morning and work together to make a difference.
I can’t seem to find the words….what can I say. I feel like a ball of sadness, anger, despair. But I stop and think about those before me, that helped me be me….my parents, grandparents, great grandparents (descendants of slaves). My family. They persevered to raise and love our family. They contributed to this country with their lives in addition to serving in the military (Korean war etc.) and they only wanted to have fair, equal treatment, and the right to pursue their dreams. The joy of the Lord is my strength - Nehemiah 8:10. I will not lose hope in humanity. I am valuable. My Black and Brown Family have a right be here and be treated in an equitable respected manner. The current system (education, criminal justice, economic justice, housing access) must be changed. It will take my whole human family (Black, Brown, White-The Rainbow- all races) to be open, fair, loving, and working together. There are two quotes from two women I admire that fits the mind set I have at this time- from the late great Nina Simone and Dr. Maya Angelou.
“I am just one of the people who is sick of the social order, sick of the establishment, sick to my soul of it all. To me, America’s society is nothing but a cancer, and it must be exposed before it can be cured. I am not the doctor to cure it. All I can do is expose the sickness.”― Nina Simone
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." – Maya Angleou
It has been such an honor and a privilege to work at MAHA with its amazingly talented membership and staff. I have been so fortunate to work with some of the finest people I have ever known. With big hearts, keen minds, incredible grace, and determination, they have done the work to make a difference. As a white person of privilege, I have learned so much and benefited so greatly from my patient Black and Brown colleagues willing to share their experiences and feelings, and explain to me what should be obvious. I am so angry that despite their heroic efforts and tremendous dedication to their communities, we are faced with the horror of what happens in our streets, our schools, our hospitals, our banks, and our minds each and every day. I’m angry, I’m sad, and I’m afraid for my beloved Black and Latinx family members, dear colleagues, and treasured friends. I’m scared for my precious Asian children. And at times like this I despair for my country. Yesterday I listened to people I care deeply for pour out the hurt of 400 years of pain and injustice, and the ongoing trauma of being Black in America. Racism kills people in so many ways. It’s overwhelming to think about the magnitude of the changes we must make so all of our precious children can survive and thrive in Boston. But I am an organizer and I believe in the power of coming together to demand the world we want to see. I am awed by the work of generations of incredible MAHA leaders who have changed thousands of lives for the better through their tremendous dedication and incredible drive. We clearly have many miles to go before we rest. Sign me up and please help me continue to learn.
Enough is enough! Protests will last for a month or so until the next black man is murdered only to be counted among those whose lives were unjustly taken. Where’s the church as we are supposed to be one in Christ? What cities have taken a stand and changed their policies in the absence of federal legislation? Enraged and hurting black communities are left wounded with no relief, no justice as this is the modern day lynching. There’s a time for everything and now is the time for change! We are not asking, we are demanding as human beings! While the heart cannot be legislated, police department throughout the United States have to be held accountable for better screening and diversity training. No one should be given the license to kill base on their fear! This stronghold must be brought down, not another husband; father, son, brother or nephew shall be the victims of such heinous crimes. Life is sacred and for someone to be the jury and judge and to get away with it is NOT ACCEPTABLE! Many white people including the president had a problem with Colin Kaepernick taking a knee to protest the injustice. Yet, a white police officer’s knee on the neck of George Floyd display before the world his hateful heart by murdering him! There’s no justification for this crime, none. So the police officers were fired, that’s not justice as they are free and have not been charged. They need to be held accountable for their actions as a life was taken. Just think of the countless people he has abused and gotten away with it. While this may seem new to some, it’s always been a looming threat in the black community. Notice to the offenders; a new day is dawning and we will no longer be silent for we demand justice now! Community leaders and local politicians call meetings with your local police administrators and have the much need conversations. Be proactive instead of reactive. Clergy reach out to your white church leaders and have discussions and prayer meetings. Continuous strategy is required to take the next steps ensure this cycle is broken. Do not wait for change from the white house, do it by state but do something. Nothing changes unless laws are in place and ENFORCED! We are hurt, tired and traumatized by the killing of our people and lack of support needed to bring change.
With a heavy heart, I pen this missive. I'm a Black man in America, I AM NOT DISPOSABLE. Historically, since over 400 years ago, Black folks have been hunted down; Kidnapped and transported against their will to a foreign land (America). Our people (rightfully proud people) have been forced to toil in fields not ours, cook and feed captors and raise their offspring for centuries without care of our person or compensated for services rendered (not even a thank you). As well we have BUILT this nation. First to die in the Revolutionary War (1770). The last to save the nation (and the world by extension) from financial ruin as recently as 2008 (Thank you Crispus Attucks & Barak Obama). Black Men (not disposables). Through All This, we have kept the faith, prayed, forgiven, sang and moved onward. A Black man is no less A MAN than any other. We have watched over the years a "systemic" assault on the Black man in this country. The HUNT has always been on, and we're the prey (this is not hype, it's wedded in fact & truths). Lynchings, dragged to death behind pickup trucks, bombed, chased down, shot dead, stalked and shot down. Choked to death with purportedly banned Gestapo tactics (many, many inhuman means that a beast could fathom). We expect better from those who were/are sworn to "Serve And Protect". We are husbands, fathers, grandfathers, sons, brothers, uncles, cousins and so, so much more to our collectives friends & associates (our dreams and aspirations aren't any different than any other humans'). We are not disposable. We will not be extinguished, we are rightfully here. Those that continue with this blatant RACIST mindset of feeling Inferior or superior are actually choking the life out of what's good about this country (it's variety, diversity it's common value of welcome). The original Americans (natives) welcomed folks that looked different from them and ultimately got shafted. Amazing how some things never change. I am TIRED of being feared & HUNTED for no other reason than my skin pigmentation and maleness. I matter to somebody, someone will miss me when I'm gone (as I will them). I can't believe that the second thing I must worry about at this time is the COVID-19 pandemic. The FIRST thing that I worry about for ALL My Life has just risen it's ugly head yet again, the fear of being MURDERED by those charged with "Serving and Protecting" me, for no fault of my own (Officers, my hands are up, don't shoot me; Officer, I'm not resisting, don't choke the life out of me in front of the world as if you don't care ---C'mon now). I hope that folks can see me as I see them (as equals with no prejudgments, as it should be). I can't continue to love someone that doesn't love me back. "An easy squeeze, makes no riot" (You're Playing Us Too Close). I'm a Black man In America. I am not disposable.
The feeling of being trapped, of being a hostage in my own community, of being invaded, of being occupied, is overwhelming. As a Latina/Black woman in America, that is the first and likely only thing that is noticed about me, I am constantly seen as a threat that needs to be neutralized. I am not usually seen as intelligent, loving, kind, caring, or beautiful. I am a worldly traveler, an open minded, God fearing woman with a degree. Imagine that, regardless of my actual predilections and mannerisms, some will always see my actions as threatening and aggressive for no rational reason but because of the color of my skin. Racism continues to be at the root of so much pain and ugliness in our society. No matter the skin color, we all bleed the same.
As an immigrant and a black woman in America, I had to learn the depth of the inequities caused by racial divides for myself through learned experiences and reading historical accounts. This has been incremental over the past 21 years of living in this country and has been getting more insidious as the years pass. How do we change the contradictory stories that define US as a nation? Why is it the normal practice for the privileges of white people in our country to be so starkly different from my Black brothers and sisters? 21 years has taught me that Colin Kaepernick kneeling to protest and support is unpatriotic, but kneeling to kill Mr. George Floyd is deserving. Slave owners raping black women was normalized but Emmett Till whistled at a white woman and that deserved lynching. The cocaine crisis of the 1980s sparked the war on drugs and jail time for Blacks, but the heroin/opioid crisis of the 2000s is a health crisis that needs to be treated not jailed. That incarceration is fitting for abusing dogs but freedom is granted for shooting a black teen walking down the street wearing a hoodie. Anyone that professes to stand in opposition of systematic racial oppression of Black people should act. No more complacency, no more silence…
We should be celebrating this week. The beginning of June marked the day that a new mortgage program is open for business after two years of campaigning, lobbying, organizing, and negotiating. MAHA held the largest housing rally in the state last year in July to announce the program to 1,000 people at the Reggie Lewis Center and thousands more not in the room. This is an enhancement of the original mortgage program MAHA organized for from 1989-91 and beyond. That program that was a direct response to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston showing that Boston banks were guilty of racial disparities in mortgage lending for decades. In a larger context, that mortgage was a response to Jim Crow laws, racial covenants imposed by the federal government, racially-motivated zoning from local governments, and a system that denied Black and Brown families the chance to own their own home. Instead, we are reeling in the aftermath of yet another police killing of an unarmed Black man. A video that so clearly lays bare how far we have to go and gives renewed meaning to Malcolm X's statement "That's not a chip on my shoulder, that's your foot on my neck." And a political aftermath that shows how divided we are. I’m sad today because as a white man in this society I can hear the pain in the voices of Black and Brown people I care about, work with and respect. But still I can go to sleep each night not worrying about the same things that my Black and Brown colleagues and friends worry about. My privilege allows me to sleep while others cannot rest. My privilege allows me to leave my home to enter the world without being concerned about returning home unharmed. But my privilege demands of me too. It demands that I speak up and use that privilege for equity, in personal and professional settings alike. While the events of the last week make me sad, angry and can cause one to give up hope, I can only hold onto the belief that working for justice, seeking justice, expecting justice through our organizing, our own actions and interactions with others is the path forward. It is always the path forward. It is the only path forward. We can't let racism and racists win.