Global Citizen Year Founder/CEO on Black Lives Matter

Dear friends,

The compounding crises of the last few months have been disorienting and heartbreaking, impacting each of us in such different ways. The events of the last week have brought some of those differences to the fore, and I’ve struggled to find the right way to express the outrage and anguish I feel — knowing that racism does not affect me in the same way it does my Black colleagues, friends and every member of the Black community.

Words feel inadequate right now, but silence is its own form of violence; injustice needs to be named and confronted in order to be changed. To those of you in our Alumni community who called on us to be louder and more vehement in our calls for justice, thank you. We — and I — have not been loud enough, and we’re committed to doing better.

I feel a profound responsibility as our organization’s Founder & CEO to share a bit about my own journey, and the actions we’re taking at Global Citizen Year.

As a white woman, I’m ashamed of the gaps in my formal education around issues of racial injustice.

I wish I’d read these books when I was a kid, and these books when I was in high school or college. I wish I’d learned what Bryan Stevenson, Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, means when he says, “Slavery did not end in 1865, it evolved.” I wish I’d known that it was essential to be color brave, not color blind.  And I wish I’d understood that white supremacy is not an extreme, fringe view — it infects our systems, institutions, and the ways we’re each conditioned to move through the world.

In recent years I’ve been outrageously fortunate to learn from wise and patient colleagues, brave Global Citizen Year Alumni, and anti-racist activists and educators who have helped me face my own racist conditioning.

I have also learned that I have a responsibility to become not just an ally but an active participant in the fight to end the systemic and institutionalized racism that led to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and too many others. The work of being anti-racist cannot be a side project; it is fundamental to our shared humanity. It’s slow, messy, painful and ongoing — but it’s the only way to build the world we know is possible.

I founded Global Citizen Year in an effort to fill some of the holes I’d experienced in my own education. Our work to prepare a generation of leaders who represent our society’s diversity and are prepared to lead with an equity lens has never felt more urgent or essential to our future.  And while we have focused on access from the very beginning, in recent years — largely thanks to the courage of many of our Alumni of color — our work to support inclusion and equity has accelerated. Our team has worked extensively with the National Equity Project and we’ve made investments to integrate racial justice training for our staff and Fellows.

Today, we’re re-doubling our commitment to:

  • Strengthen the anti-racist training and curriculum we offer through our Fellowship and new Academy
  • Create space to ensure that our Black colleagues, alumni and partners feel a sense of belonging in our community, and have a prominent role in shaping our work
  • Increase racial diversity on our Board of Directors
  • Use our platform to amplify Black voices and share resources to help all of us engage effectively in this critical conversation
  • Continually examine our policies and behaviors to ensure our actions and impact align with our values, and combat inequity and anti-blackness

In the weeks and years ahead we will be working hard to lead by example as we equip a new generation of leaders to advance equity and opportunity for all.

There’s so much work to do. We have a lot to learn, and we won’t always get it right — but we’ll forge ahead with empathy, humility and fierce determination.

United in grief and purpose,
Abby

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