Dear Letters Foundation Community,
Like many of you, I have been following the tragic news of the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor and the traumatic fallout and pain from those events. I am deeply saddened and angered by the continued brutalization of Black people and the institutional racism embedded in our nation. I do not believe it should be controversial to support the improvement of laws to protect unarmed human beings at the hands of armed human beings. Yet, we know that this inability to recognize the humanity of Black people is nothing new.
Listening, educating ourselves, reflecting, and acting are at the core of our grantmaking at the Letters Foundation. We start all of our relationships with constituents by listening closely to their stories and carefully reading every single letter. We then must take time to educate ourselves by asking questions aimed at better understanding their lived experiences. We end our relationship with constituents by acting: finding the specific ways in which we can best support them on their journey. Throughout all of this we must continuously reflect, working to examine how our own bias plays into our assumptions, actions, and decision-making about the value of another person’s life.
Despite our support of over 1,000 individuals and families over the past four years, we must also acknowledge that our one-time grants cannot and will not loosen the grip of systemic oppression in this country. Making the systemic changes needed to dismantle centuries of institutional racism will require continuous, hard, and deep work, well beyond the lifespan of this foundation. However, I firmly believe that we can apply the lessons we have learned in this community to the actions we all need to take.
As a white person, I am moved to deepen my own commitments to listen, educate myself, reflect, and act. I vow to truly listen to those most marginalized by our systems, educate myself about white supremacy, work within an anti-racist framework, continuously reflect on how my privilege and bias inform my actions and decision-making, and find new ways (both big and small) to be a better ally. I encourage my colleagues, especially my white colleagues, to do the same, all the while reminding ourselves that it is a privilege to educate ourselves about racism instead of experiencing it.
As we prepare for our sunset, we have completed the most fundamental part of our mission: Every Letter Read. Yet, the story of our nation’s future is still being written, and the work of dismantling systemic racism continues. I implore all of us to be a part of writing a new story for our country that moves beyond false rhetoric that each life has the same value. That value must be reflected through actions that change entrenched systems.
If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved in anti-racism work, or for a list of Black-led nonprofits that allies can support financially, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a compiled list of resources.
Amy Kingman, Executive Director