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Tony Sanneh Statement on The Death of George Floyd

At this moment, after the murder of George Floyd, while our streets are full every day and every night with both peaceful and violent expressions of protest, rage, grief, and pain, I feel compelled to make a personal statement on behalf of our organization.

 

The public responses around our country to what happened in our own community causes me personal conflict, as I come from the perspective of peace, but I also understand that throughout history, true change has never come without disruption to the system. While I do not condone the looting and destruction of property, I also recognize that the origin of these events did not begin without the worst of provocations and centuries of repeated injustice. 

 

Our intent as an organization, from the moment of inception, is to provide diverse youth with a community of supportive relationships and opportunities that recognizes both the inequities faced by youth from low-income families and communities of color, as well as their assets and potential - their value - which they add to our neighborhoods and communities.

 

I know well, from my individual background and the lived experiences of our diverse staff, that we have experienced generations of trauma, struggle and strife as Americans participating in the ongoing project of building a more just and democratic United States of America for ALL.

 

As I was marching today on University Avenue with hundreds of others, I could not help but think of history repeating itself, and how far we have come and how far we have not. It was a solemn march, led by a coalition of black churches, that put me back into the 60’s. I felt connected to those that have sacrificed so much, but I want to ensure that all the hard work, suffering and pain leads to long-lasting change. We can want change, but we have to be willing to change. I want to make certain that the cruel injustice Mr. Floyd experienced leads to change; it only leads to change if we change. 

 

I need to share my condolences to the Floyd family. I also want to challenge all of us to do more, and be consistent agents of change from this day forward, as we work together to heal a nation. I want us to recognize, call out, and respond when we see, hear, and act in any way that is disrespectful, discriminatory, or violent because of the color of one's skin, or any of the number of ways we are different. The Sanneh Foundation is committed to racial justice and supporting all members of the community, and we stand with you, our neighbors, who are as well; and we stand AGAINST those, our neighbors, who do not.  

 

At this time in history, we view silence as complicity. As a state and nation, we can no longer be spectators, or leave the work to others, as intolerance and violence are committed against our communities of color.  

 

Now more than ever, the work we do on a daily basis is at the forefront of not only America, but of the world.  This week, I have friends, family and colleagues from around the world reaching out, or standing up to publicly recognize the travesty and injustice that has occurred in my home state of Minnesota.

 

We, The Sanneh Foundation, will continue to do the work that advances the real construction of community health and well-being; that includes Anti-Racism Training to local student athletes at our captains camps and soccer clubs. It includes continuing to develop mentors and teachers of color through our Dreamline program while supporting this same population in the high schools and middle schools. We will continue to train police officers internationally, and hopefully locally, on relationship based leadership to connect the police and the community in peaceful ways.  We will continue and increase our efforts during this pandemic to get basic needs like food to local families that are suffering. We will continue to hold ourselves and each other accountable and work together to end racial injustice.

 

It pains me to say that, in the past, we have trained police officers in other countries on relationship based leadership and community policing to reduce violent practices and create the foundation for healthier communities. For some reason it seems we as a nation have not looked into our own backyard before fixing others. It is time we face the reality of the systems we have created, and that it is not good enough, we are not good enough, and we have to get better and look at ourselves and hold each other and our nation to the standards and democratic principles we claim as a nation.

 

Let's be better, and support change now, and into the future.