Dear members of the USES community,
Amidst the most unprecedented year of my lifetime, I am reminded each day why I rise, why I serve, and why I am committed to USES and our richly diverse community. I am fueled to eradicate the injustices that have spanned generations since the inception of our great nation. I am equally inspired by the hope of coming together to listen, bond, grow, and prosper – as a community – to create a new normal. This is core to my origin story. And, it is at the core of USES’s origin story. More than a century ago, our organization’s founders and community leaders had a vision that was profoundly before its time. And now, more than ever, it is time to honor USES’s vision and legacy. We must mobilize our voices and resources for those most afflicted by multigenerational racial, social, and economic injustice.
My heart continues to weigh heavy by the recent and senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the threat to Christian Cooper. Personally, I tried to protect myself, my heart, and my mind from what was taking place last week by pouring myself into my work and serving our families. But as a Black woman, I don’t have that luxury. So I’m doing what Black women have done for generations, I’m standing with, and for our Black community, and inviting people of every walk of life to stand and work alongside me.
For the past ten weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled the racial disparities that exist between Black and White people. In our own community, close to 50% of our USES families have lost their jobs or income due to the pandemic, and most of these families are people of color. For those who have kept their jobs both locally and nationwide, Black people are disproportionately in roles with increased exposure and risks to COVID-19, which has led to significantly higher rates of contracting the virus and dying from it.
On top of this pandemic, we continue to experience the disproportionate rates of losing our daily freedoms and lives, simply for being Black in America. Imagine your family member, friend, or colleague going for a run, being hunted by two strangers, and being murdered. Imagine your family member, friend, or colleague being assaulted by four police officers, and suffocated to death as people walk by. Imagine your family member, friend, or colleague serving our nation and being murdered after returning home from a tour of duty. Now imagine your family member’s, friend’s or colleague’s death being broadcasted and seen by millions. Imagine no arrests. Imagine asking for help, and not receiving it. And imagine walking in harmony with your friends, family, and community for justice and being struck, shot, jailed, tear gassed, assaulted, and feared. Simply because you’re Black.
This is an unjust, unfair, and unimaginable reality, especially at USES. However, our Blackness is represented in every cornerstone of our organization. Our staff. Our executive team. Our board. Our community partners. Our families. And, our children. So, while our Black community gets up every day to serve, we also disproportionately suffer. Which is why we serve, why we lead, why we care for every child and family like they’re our own.
What I love about USES, is that we intentionally bring people from all races and backgrounds together so we can build connections and breakdown systemic barriers that have divided us. We can’t build towards justice individually or divided. And we can’t make the changes we need to make if we don’t change ourselves. Being a part of the USES community means we must stand together and united. We must stand up for each other. This is the time to ask ourselves, “what am I going to do?”.
Now more than ever, we need our White families, staff, board, supporters, and neighbors to have the backs of our Black teachers, families, staff, board and community partners. We need you to demand justice. We need you to embrace “Black Lives Matter”. We need you to listen with an open heart and mind. And we need you to live a new normal by stopping racial injustice when you see it.
It is imperative that we don’t “go back to normal” and instead, create a new normal. A new normal that includes economic, racial, and social justice. A new normal that makes life more abundant and safe for everyone.
Now, what new normal will you create?
Maicharia Z. Weir Lytle
USES President & CEO