I'd like to share the message Youth Collaboratory put out recently to fellow, white Executive Directors. Youth Collaboratory "opposes all forms of racism, recognizing that the total power of authentic youth voice cannot fully be harnessed until systems of oppression are completely dismantled."
"It has been a few weeks since the murder of George Floyd. Since that time many of us have been responding with compassion, hope, and advocacy for change. We live in urban, tribal, suburban, and rural communities. We serve youth experiencing and at-risk of homelessness, system-involvement, exploitation, trauma, and death. We are a community and we represent the community in our diversity, locations, religious, and political beliefs. We dare to do our work every day in the midst of the struggle for equity.
Some of us enjoy the very privilege that we are fighting against. The power and privilege that comes with our positions also comes with a responsibility to pull away from moderation at this moment and double down on anti-racism.
For too long, as a sector, we have fueled moderation out of fear. The fear of not having enough resources to sustain our organizations; fear of conflict - especially with funders and board members; and fear of lobbying or anything that could be considered political. This fear often results in moderation and active avoidance of conflict. This moderation perpetuates a culture of white supremacy.
Working towards racial equity and engaging in anti-racism requires some really hard conversations. It's grueling, uncomfortable, and emotionally laborious. It’s also important and needed.
At Youth Collaboratory, our membership serves youth that are predominately Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who come from diverse communities that have and continue to suffer from systems of oppression. From juvenile lockup to broken education systems. From lack of transportation to community violence. From underfunded post-secondary schools to lack of response to trauma. The youth we serve and many of our staff face this oppression every day.
Many of our brothers and sisters are exhausted from this fight and the last few weeks have taken its toll not only on those we serve, but also our staff and the entire community.
Those of us who have had the privilege and power on which to rest all of this time must step up and step in.
Megan Blondin - Executive Director
Daniel Pfarr - Board of Directors, Chairperson"
Today we commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States. While a joyful celebration, the end of slavery has not stopped systemic racism or the oppression of African Americans. From voting rights, civil rights, to George Floyd, we stand in unity at 180 Degrees with all of our brothers and sisters. From justice reform to ending sexual exploitation, we are committed to the cause of freedom.
In honor of this day going forward and as a reminder each year at 180 Degrees, this day shall be added as an official holiday for 2021 and beyond.
Chief Executive Officer
Read more about Juneteenth here...
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Putting diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in place takes strong leadership and commitment. Policies alone won't drive change. It takes a sustained effort across the entire organization to challenge current practices, call out what's not working, and implement new solutions that make our workplace welcoming and equitable for all.
In 2019, employees Akello Alay, Abigail Botten, and Michelle Hall were selected to participate in a nine month Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion cohort sponsored by the University of Minnesota and Amherst Wilder Foundation. Joining other non-profit leaders from across the Twin Cities, they explored a wide-range of actionable ideas and challenges while increasing their personal intercultural awareness and competency.
The team returned to 180 Degrees, presenting recommendations to the agency's Leadership and Management Team. Recommendations addressed race, ethnicity, language, religion, gender, LGBTQ+ communities, and age. Specific tactics included recruiting employees from new sources to build a more diverse workforce, giving all employees the appropriate tools to succeed, intentionally reaching out to communities not represented in our programs, and actively seeking feedback from communities of color about our performance.
One of the recommendations put into practice includes launching a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Governance Committee. The new committee includes representatives from all levels of the organization and will meet monthly, ensuring that diversity, equity, and inclusion work is sustained throughout the year. The committee will review policies and procedures, identify training opportunities to strengthen cultural awareness, and regularly review client surveys about our programs.
It has been a little over a week since the death of George Floyd. Since that time 180 Degrees has been responding with compassion, hope and advocacy for change. We live in urban, suburban and rural communities. We serve homeless, at-risk youth, men exiting prison, and women seeking safety. We are community and we represent community in our diversity, locations, religious and political beliefs. We dare to do our work everyday during this heightened time of unrest.
Making a statement about this incident is not enough. At 180 Degrees our clients are predominately people of color and from diverse communities that have and continue to suffer from systems of oppression. From prison cells to the unemployment line. From lack of transportation to community violence. From underfunded schools to lack of response to trauma. Our clients and many of our staff face this oppression every day.
As a dear friend of mine, an elder in the black community said, “Dan, this is not new to us—I have been going through this shit for 82 years and counting.” This is true, none of this unfortunately is new to 180 Degrees either. In 1971 Robbie Robinson started with a single house and a desire to help men coming out of prison. We wake up everyday and we continue to serve the community as Robbie did 45 years ago. At 180 Degrees we are exhausted from the past few months and the last week has taken its toll not only on our clients but our staff. You see, we are a family—George Floyd was our brother and we are grieving.
This has been a difficult seven days. We all have thoughts feelings, reactions. Some of us are protesting, volunteering, gathering food, writing letters, and doing anything in our power to help. We are a community at 180 Degrees. We live in different neighborhoods, communities, rural and urban. We have different reactions, political and religious beliefs. Be who you are and do that well. Please let me know if you need anything or what kind of support you need. Remember, 180 Degrees got its start by as a grassroots organization, founded by community members working for racial justice. Let's keep that spirit alive. We are community!
I woke this morning with a sinking feeling about the City that I live and work in. Seeing live footage on CNN and the front page of the news is difficult at best. We all have various perspectives and reactions to crisis and change. We all are bombarded with our own emotions and feelings about what has happened over the last 5 days.
I have feelings of helplessness as I figure out how to support our staff, sites and clients we serve in our programs. Racial injustice and a system that promotes this is being challenged. Protesting often comes with unrest. I would not attempt to justify looting and violence but these are complicated topics that have deep emotions that ride a historical path of injustice for people of color.
Sitting in my discomfort is what I must do knowing that this is bigger than one person and one solution. One thing we must do is continue to understand and act upon these issues that have divided this Country. At 180 Degrees, we must find a way to confront the hatred of racism and bias in our communities. I guess today like most days, starts with my own reflections. Now I must challenge myself to back those up with actions.
For over thirty years, CEO Dan Pfarr has been on the front lines of the human services community, working to lift-up youth, adults, and families in crisis. His focus on trauma-informed care helps shape the direction of 180 Degrees and inspire a team of nearly one hundred employees. As a multi-cultural organization with staff and clients who have suffered a life of prejudice and inequality, 180 Degrees continues prioritizing discussion and action against a system of racial injustice.