Dear Beyond 12 Community,
I have struggled over the last few days to find the right words to express the deep sorrow, anguish, and anger our community is feeling as we process the vicious killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and as we contemplate what could have happened to Christian Cooper as he was bird watching in Central Park. Although these cases have caught our national attention, they are only a few of the incidents of brutality and injustice to which the Black community has been subjected and to which we will, unfortunately, be subjected in the future. We remember and still grieve for Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, and too many others.
These events are neither isolated nor random. They are part of the systemic injustices that Black Americans have suffered for over 400 years; a complex machination of racist practices, laws, and policies, as Bryan Stevenson from the Equal Justice Initiative has reminded us — from slavery to mass incarceration — that have led to the current disparities in health, wealth, lending, housing, safety, and well being.
The inequities in educational outcomes for black and brown students stem from the root of the same tree. Our education system is not broken — it was intentionally designed to open the path of opportunity to a select few and deny it to others. It was specifically crafted to ensure that wealth, power, and influence remain the province of the privileged. This is why I have chosen to dedicate my life to redesigning our education system and why we do the work we do at Beyond 12.
Today, we stand with our Black students and with Black communities across the country who continue to experience the pangs of racism in all aspects of their lives. We see you; we honor you; we grieve and mourn with you. We act with you. We must demand nationwide, systematic police reform in addition to dismantling all other systems that have led to our country’s deep inequities. I invite all members of our community to join us in the fight against racial injustice and oppression. Silence is no longer an option. Whatever your sphere of influence, I implore you to ACT.
I write to you not only as Beyond 12’s founder and CEO, but as a Black woman and as a mother who had to have “the talk” about racism on Sunday with her 8-year-old son. Through tears (his and mine), I reassured him that he is loved beyond measure; that he can and will move mountains; and that his life does indeed matter — to his parents, to his extended family, and to this world.
As agonizing as our talk was, it allowed me to reflect on and share with him the things I know to be true, even in this difficult moment.
- We will be triumphant. Our ancestors have been through this before and they have given us the tools we need to triumph. Their legacy is one of strength, hope, and love and our cause is righteous and just. We know what resistance, organizing, and resilience can lead to and now, more than ever, we need to tap into those tools — for each other, for our nation, and for the generations to come. What do we do now? We double down on our efforts. We join new ones. We continue to fight. We will be triumphant.
- Our work continues. Our students need us now more than ever and so, too, do our most vulnerable citizens. They need a safe harbor as they navigate these turbulent times. We are increasing our support so they can remain focused on the prize — their liberation and success. Yet we must do more than prepare them to succeed in the system as we know it. We have to prepare them to question that system, dismantle it, and build a new one – one that is specifically, deliberately, and intentionally designed to deliver equitable outcomes for ALL children. Our work continues.
- The human spirit is noble. Although I am disappointed and angered by the actions of some of our fellow humans, I try to remember that, at its core, the human spirit is noble. I believe that we can work together to conquer racism through proximity, education, and love. But we also need to take action. I need to believe this and as long as I am in this work, I will try to empathize, understand, and do my part to draw my fellow humans away from fear and toward justice while also fighting to dismantle the racist systems that have led to our country’s deep inequities. The human spirit is noble.
I leave you with the hope with which I left the conversation with my son and an invocation from civil rights activist and educator, Mary McLeod Bethune: “If we have the courage and tenacity of our forebears, who stood firmly like a rock against the lash of slavery, we shall find a way to do for our day what they did for theirs…”
Thank you for standing shoulder to shoulder with us. And if, like us, you believe that an equitable education system is the foundation of a just society, please join us as we press forward for our shared liberation.
Founder & CEO, Beyond 12