WE STAND WITH THE BLACK COMMUNITY.
To the Habitat Chicago Community,
I’ve been reflecting all week long on the deaths of Black men and women in our community and across our nation. The loss and devastation to their families is real and forever. The painful, sad truth is that our Black neighbors are losing their lives because of the color of their skin. Because of the color of their skin, Black Americans are stopped by law enforcement and questioned by neighbors; their actions and at times their mere presence assumed suspicious, threatening, and criminal.
In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed instances of brutality and violence against Black men and women again and again. Rodney King. Michael Brown. Sandra Bland. Philando Castile. Laquan McDonald. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. I name the victims we all now know. But what about those we don’t know? And what about the thousands of deaths spanning the decades before – Red Summer of 1919, Jim Crow – all going back to 1619 when the first Africans were brought to our shores bound and shackled by captors. America’s original sin: slavery.
It is time to call out and end systemic racism. It runs through our society like a virus, a pervasive pandemic that is infecting hearts and minds, claiming lives and futures. It is time for White America to reexamine our role, acknowledge the privilege we have as a result of systemic racism, and determine how our actions or inactions contribute to the problem. It is time for change and commitment. It is time for us to work to find solutions. It is time we definitively say, we are anti-racist. Black lives matter.
I started this week telling the team at Habitat Chicago that I have no words. It’s not true. And for this I am sorry. I have so many words and so much I want to say. I love this city. And I am filled with profound sadness that we have so much work yet to do to ensure everyone can live with dignity and respect and without fear. However, to make this time about me and what I wanted to share felt trite. This is not about me. This is about justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and all the lives taken from our world too soon because of the color of their skin that were not caught on video.
So, what will Habitat for Humanity Chicago do?
We will continue to stand beside our Black team members, neighbors, volunteers, supporters, and partners. We will continue to proudly invest in communities that are unjustly undervalued by the marketplace. We are already committed to building in West Pullman and Greater Grand Crossing. These two South Side neighborhoods deserve strong investments and dedicated partners. We will not walk away.
We will anchor our team in understanding the history of the Black experience in our country, particularly when it comes to discriminatory housing practices. Many of us have read books documenting and unpacking this history, articles and books like The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation, The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. I know that book knowledge can only take us so far; however, I strongly believe that knowing our history and understanding how we came to this place in time, will guide and lead us to what is needed for change.
We will hire to ensure our team is a cross-representation of our community. I acknowledge that we are greatly imperfect here and have more work to do.
We will challenge our family of volunteers, supporters, and partners to join organizations working for social justice with Black leadership, organizations like the NAACP Chicago Southside, Black Lives Matter Chicago, and My Block My Hood My City.
We are Habitat for Humanity Chicago. We ask that you join us in embracing the humanity of our Black neighbors. We stand with the Black community today. We call for change today. We are committed to the work needed to end the cycle of violence and injustice.
Jennifer L. Parks
Executive Director, Habitat Chicago