Black Lives Matter

Yup. This absolutely needs to be said. And said. And said…And said. It needs to be said by all of us, including Soft Landing Missoula. Black Lives Matter. Full Stop.

It also needs to be acted on. We are a white-led organization working primarily with black people and people of color. While it is most certainly always our priority to be client led with open hearts and eyes, we have more work to do in our organization so that we can continue to strive to be a part of the solution to addressing what is wrong in our world. We have more things to learn. We need to listen more. We need to be more intentional, and more thoughtful, and we need to be a part of conversations and actions to dismantle racism in America and work towards being an Anti-racist society, not just “less racist”.

Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies, practices, and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably. (NAC International Perspectives: Women and Global Solidarity)

I am not saying this to you from a soap box or a place of comfort. I just learned this definition this week. One of the greatest gifts this work with people of color has given me is to lay bare my own learned racism and bring this conversation into my life in a very real way. A way in which I can grow and learn and act toward not only being a better human, but a better participant in the long term work that it will take to dismantle racism in our communities and our country.

I wanted to be able to give you guys commitments from Soft Landing in this statement. These are not perfect or complete. That will take more hard work (remember how I just learned the definition of Anti-racism this week?!?!)- work that we are willing to do. Work that we commit to for the long haul, not just while this is so prevalent on our social media feeds, but during and AFTER that. 

Here are the promises we make:

1) We will educate ourselves and inform our programming by listening to and following the lead of refugee, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People Of Color) voices. We will not let our own ignorance and history paralyze us, but will face the world with curiosity, open eyes, love, and action.

2) We will focus this work in our own community, but not ignore the national issue of institutional racism in America. We will partner with other local organizations that are BIPOC lead, and contribute financially to that partnership, to assist in doing the work of increasing equity in our community. 

3) We will intentionally work toward a more representative board and staff. This has always been a “long-term” goal with inherent challenges, but again, just because we can’t do it perfectly right away, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. We will examine our own internal policies and procedures to make sure we are walking the walk of Anti-racism, not just talking the talk.

4) We will offer space and support for New Americans of color to drive conversations of what it means to be BIPOC in America. This is a big one right now. Refugees have to live with the consequences of being Black and Brown in America without the context of having grown up in this broken system. People are scared and have many questions. Over the last couple of days we have been embarking on starting the conversation with refugees and partners from the BIPOC community on how we can help facilitate this space while still letting our clients lead this conversation where they would like it to go.

5) We will celebrate. We will dance. We will sing. We will play. We will laugh. While we do this, we will make it a priority to lift up the voices of refugees as a part of Missoula’s BIPOC community. We will acknowledge the work to be done, but just as importantly, we will celebrate the joy, resilience, and strength of communities of color. 

There is so so much to say here, and I know our “feeds” are chock full these days of resources, but incase you are struggling to find local ways to support this work in our own community- here are some great Missoula and Montana based organizations lead by the BIPOC community that you can invest (give money!) in to support the long term work of racial equity right here. If you want to really invest, please consider becoming a monthly donor as your monthly reminder that this is still incredibly important when the fervor on social media wanes. I am sure this isn’t an extensive list, but they are the ones I know about and if you know of others, PLEASE share with me and I will re-share.

University of Montana African-American Studies Department– specifically consider donating to the Dianna Riley Fund to support the annual Black Solidarity Summit at UM.

University of Montana Black Student Union- website and Facebook

Empower MT and YWCA Missoula– specifically donating to support the new joint position of their Racial Justice Engagement Specialist, Alex Kim.

The Montana Racial Equity Project

Additionally, many people from the BIPOC community around the nation have created incredible resources that they have painstakingly developed for the education of white people in this space. To white people like me: use these resources and PAY for them. Even if it is a free podcast or online resource. Figure out how you can financially support and donate to the work that you are finding value in. This is as much a “product” to pay the maker for as you pay the local farmer for providing you with fresh food (Fresh food should also be a right, but unfortunately it is another privilege. This is also part of the “work”).

Resources for white people in this conversation have never been more easy to access. You can start here.

OK!  This is a start.  A start of a long conversation, progressive action, and a commitment from us to always strive to be better and contribute to a better and more just world.

In love and gratitude and solidarity and action,