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.