A Black History Month Reflection
While every celebration of Black History Month is valuable, this recent recognition of Black Life and Heritage is especially poignant; the death of our very own community member, George Floyd, and the wave of nationwide protests that followed his death has increased the need to reflect deeply on the struggle for racial equity. As this nation searches for solutions to inequality, we remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his 1967 book “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” In the book, King reflects on more than a decade of civil rights struggle and suggests how the country should move forward following the success of the Voting Rights Act. After reading King’s work, our CEO Tony Sanneh identified the roadmap King laid out in his book, noting 3 solutions King highlighted:
- Equity in Education
“Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into the bright tomorrows of quality integrated education.”—Where Do We Go From Here? (1967)
Dr. King and countless other civil rights activists fought for the rights of black children to receive a fair education. But, with the pandemic further intensifying gaps in the education system, it has become clear that this struggle is far from over. At no time has the “digital divide” been more stark and present than right now, when having access to the internet, a computer, or even a quiet place to learn has become necessary but almost completely unavailable for far too many children—especially children of color. In doing our part to tackle the divide, Sanneh continues to support under-resourced students through our Dreamline mentoring program and our Distance Learning Hub. As we struggle against injustice, equity in education must remain a central goal.
- Economic Justice and Opportunity
“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it…Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table, when man has the resources and the scientific know‐how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life?…There is no deficit in human resources, the deficit is in human will.”—Where Do We Go From Here? (1967)
At Sanneh, we have seen how poverty has grown in direct correlation to our food distribution lines. The reality of poverty hits us every day; the lines do not get shorter and the need for help has not decreased after months of hard community action. As we slowly inch our way out of this current economic crisis and public health emergency, we must not merely look forward to normalcy. The state of poverty was already dire before—the pandemic has simply exposed the vulnerability of our society. We must use this critical juncture to fix and heal the cracks that have allowed so many people to slip into poverty. The task of tackling poverty is a huge one, which is why we must invest heavily in Dr. King’s last suggestion:
- Organizing and Coalition Building
Partnership is vital to the success of all movements. During Dr. King’s time, people of all races, religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds came together to fight injustice, they marched hand-in-hand demanding change. It is through this method of coalition building that Sanneh is fulfilling our mission to increase equity in our community. We have made a concerted effort to build our workforce and our partnerships in a way that reflects the diversity of our community. Our partnerships with a variety of our community members have made us stronger; we work with church groups, members of the Karen community, Hmong community members, Latino nonprofits, youth groups, athletes, lawmakers, local business leaders, and so many others. Our community and our organization are stronger because of our partnerships.
It is clear that, wherever we go from here, we must go there together.