I have struggled with the words this year for Black History Month. Not because there is any lack of accomplishment in black history but because history is washed clean by power. It seems like every step forward is met with resistance and this duality that we experience in our society. History is not only a marker of time and past but affects the future. When we hear words like racial justice and equity, we all have a picture in our minds of having the same opportunity as our neighbor regardless of the color of our skin. We tumble around the edges and fight over things like Systemic Racism, Historical Reparations, Critical Race Theory, Voting Rights, Gun Violence. All these concepts are only words unless we understand the relationship between Power, Racism, Dominate Culture, White Privilege, and the ability to distinguish the truth from misinformation that motivates so many on social media.
Five young Black men (teenagers) murdered just in the last two weeks alone from our community. Amir Locke was killed by police as they entered his apartment with a no-knock warrant. On the same day, Jahmari Rice was killed by a classmate in front of his school. Deshaun Hill Jr. was shot on a street corner in North Minneapolis just a few blocks from where I live. Two other young Black men were killed as well. (Malik Travon Carr-Riggins and Case Samuel Ritzman) All have family and did not expect their lives to end this way. What if five young white males were killed in Minnetonka, Rochester, or St. Cloud last week? Would we have a different response?
So, we are faced with another year, another month of black history and we have choices to make about how and where we spend our time and what we advocate for. At 180 Degrees we are making a difference. Our staff at Clifton Place know the plight of black men as they come out of prison and reenter society. Brittany’s Place serves women as they heal from sexual trafficking. Our youth shelters reach out to both urban and rural youth who need safe places in the coldest months of the year. Our strategic plan focuses on equity and Trauma Informed Care. We are committed to serving the community and changing the narrative. This year and moving forward we will double down on our commitment to making racial equality central to our mission.
Is this enough to change every stubborn piece of racial injustice in the land? Not at all.
But we can start with ourselves. Join me, in making a commitment to stand up, be heard, share your fears and success stories. We are better as one voice, as one community fighting for justice
CEO/President, 180 Degrees
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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.