Dear NATSAP Members.
NATSAP stands with Black Lives Matters. We don’t want this to be a performative effort, we want action and movement towards bettering ourselves and our programs. We know some of the areas in which we fail, but we do not know them all. To that end, we will hold two roundtable discussions. One on race among program staff and one on race among our clients. We highly encourage all NATSAP members to attend both roundtables. This will be uncomfortable. At times, it will be painful, and our hearts will hurt. But it is necessary. The facilitators of these roundtables will be NATSAP Members who are People of Color. We will listen, we will hear, and we will do better.
These roundtables will be followed up with continued discussions and the creation of a NATSAP Diversity and Inclusion Committee. This Committee will be tasked with reviewing all aspects of NATSAP to see where we can do better. This might include adding a diversity track to our conferences, holding forums on tough topics, and reviewing best practices at our member programs and at NATSAP itself.
The roundtable discussions will be held on June 23rd and June 24th at 1 PM eastern. A follow up email with registration details will be sent to NATSAP members at a later date.
The below is from Shanita Smith, NATSAP’s Director of Membership, Member Services and Public Relations:
My hope for this message is not to anger or discourage anyone. Instead, I hope to get across that the entire African American/Black race is in need of EVERYONE’S support and not just the support of other black people. We (black people) as a race have strived for change for centuries and it is very apparent that we cannot do this alone.
Over the past week, I have struggled with what to say and do regarding the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other black lives that have been lost due to the color of their skin. My heart aches for the families that have been left behind by their love one due to a senseless act of violence and racism. The words “I can’t breathe” has become the last thing on my mind at night. Thoughts flood my mind as I picture the images of violence portrayed in the media towards one of my brothers or sisters. And some nights, I literally cannot breathe. The injustice that has occurred to black lives over the years is sickening and unsettling. I’ve been on daily calls with people of color trying to wrap their heads around how black lives are perceived and suffering. I’ve also been on calls where people who were not of color were just calling to check in on me to ensure that I was okay. I share this because it did not matter if they had practiced a speech before calling me or if they just wanted to listen to me air out my frustrations while they sat silent. What mattered to me the most was that I was on their mind enough that they took the second to call and listen.
Your words and actions, regardless of race, can be so very powerful right now. So, before you say “I cannot relate to being black” take a second and give it a try. Try imagining having to worry about your child not coming home one day. And not because the area you live in is unsafe, but because the world you live in is unsafe. There are so many people of color who are terrified to go for a walk, call the police or even say “hi” to a person who is not of color. If you are of color, the police are not your police, they belong to someone else and they are not here to protect you, if they even show up at all.
The best way to help the black community is to participate in it. That does not mean you have to donate money or protest. However, start with those close to you. Just in case you were wondering, your black friends, colleagues, employees, etc. ARE NOT OKAY. Pick up the phone and check on them. Let them vent a little if you have to. Sit in your discomfort a bit, as I guarantee, we’ve been uncomfortable in a lot more settings. Take a stand and say out loud, “I do not support racism and what is happening in the world is wrong.” Staying silent only makes us feel that you support the side of our oppressors.
I’ve talked to so many people affected by the tragedies occurring (some within the membership) who are struggling to keep it together at work and maintain professionalism. I urge everyone to call and check in on them. If you employ someone of color, find out how they could best use your help and see if it is doable. Before putting a statement out on behalf of your agency/organization, get a person of color’s feedback. You have to make those closer to you believe that you are in support of black lives before the world can believe it.
Yes, all life is precious, however, at this time the lives of Black people in America are in jeopardy. At the end of the day, there is only one race. The human race. Let’s please stand together.
Thank you for reading until the end. And please know that we are not angry with the entire world, just those who abuse their privilege to the extent that it costs a life.
With love in my heart,
Megan Stokes and the NATSAP Home Office.