Below is an internal communication sent to our team on 6/9/2020. Listening carefully to our local black community––amplifying voices, and looking internally for opportunities to change–– were tangible directives. What we propose to do below is not for public recognition or to highlight the actions of 434. I strongly hesitated for fear of that interpretation. That said, making this post is a measure to hold 434 accountable.
We need to do better, and we will.
These past few weeks have been extraordinarily challenging. Jen and I are deeply grieved by the horrific acts of violence committed against George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others.
As a white male, I will never understand what it’s like to fear for my life when being pulled over. I will never fully understand what it’s like to worry about my children’s interaction with law enforcement––and when they move out of the nest, dread incoming phone calls. I will never know what it’s like to be a firefighter in our community, yet when out of uniform, be fearful that the law enforcement I serve alongside in my city, may take my life.
These stories were all shared by black community members in Lynchburg in this talk– listening to Anthony Andrews share the fear he has––as that firefighter in our community––was eye-opening. Further, Leslie King stated that change starts with self-reflection and that we must get uncomfortable. She recommended taking the Harvard Implicit Association Test to uncover potential blind spots.
I want you to know that the 434 family stands firmly unified with our black neighbors in the fight against racism, violence, and inequality. We also know that actions speak louder than words. That’s why 434 is taking the following action:
We have donated $2,500 to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
We will commit an additional $2,500 in matching contributions to any team donations through the end of June
We will commit to reviewing our hiring practices and looking for ways to implement changes that promote cultural diversity by years end
We will form a Diversity and Culture committee that will meet quarterly. This committee’s focus will be on 1) holding our team accountable to our diversity initiatives, 2) identifying opportunities to change, 3) promoting the core values of 434 within our organization to retain a culturally diverse team, and 4) identifying which organization(s) will receive the additional funding commitment from action item 2.
I know that this is a challenging, emotional, and painful time for many. The forced distance and isolation from the pandemic make it even harder for us to come together as a team. I want you to know that Jen and I are committed to being here for you.
Whether you have an idea to share, or just need someone to talk to right now, we encourage you to reach out to us, and each other, for support.