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We’re Restless

July 18, 2016

Today’s blog is written by AmeriCorps Alums Co-Executive Directors Mary Bruce and Ben Duda.

Recently, we issued a statement in response to the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the five officers in Dallas: Brent Thompson, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, and Patrick Zamarripa. We grieve now too for Baton Rouge Officers Matthew Gerald and Montrell Jackson and Deputy Brad Garafola. Each of their deaths is a brutal reminder that we have much work ahead to live up to the promise of the AmeriCorps pledge and “bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.”

We’re restless. What can AmeriCorps Alums – as individuals and as a network –  do to move our communities away from division, hate, and violence and towards unity, equity, and opportunity? Over the past 18 months, we’ve been meeting with hundreds of AmeriCorps alums across the country to answer that question and to inform our strategic direction. In recent days, we have heard from many of you that you’re feeling scared, sad, hopeless, numb, confused, frustrated.

Just last week, at a White House convening, we joined hundreds of colleagues to discuss the power and potential of civic engagement. We want to advance this conversation and work – and to hear from you. What resources are you or your organization using to make sense of recent events and build stronger bonds of civic engagement and equity? What are you reading, and to whom are you looking to for guidance, support, and inspiration?

Click here to share your thoughts
on what resources you know of and what ideas you have about how we can better support alumni in leading our communities towards unity, equity, and opportunity
. Below, we also share a few resources (many of which were sent to us from the AmeriCorps Alums community) that we personally found helpful in moving the conversation, the work, and the action forward.

We believe the work to strengthen our communities is more urgent than ever – and that we each have a role to play. Guided by the AmeriCorps pledge, and because of the feedback we’ve received from our community, we are leading a strategic shift for our organization and our network: equity is at the center of our work. Implicit and explicit bias, racism, fear, misunderstanding: these lead to unequal outcomes, including those that are too often linked to the color of one’s skin. We believe America will be safer, stronger, and healthier when we openly discuss, confront, and fearlessly address the underlying issues that create and sustain inequities in communities.

Help us be more active in leading dialogues and actions to address disparities. Share your ideas here today.

Resources for (and from) You

This is a list of some of the resources that we found helpful in moving the conversation, the work, and the action forward. Many were sent to us from AmeriCorps alumni or are about the alumni community. We recognize that this list is incomplete. With you, we hope to grow the diversity of places, people, sectors, and perspectives of resources represented – and then we’ll share these resources on the REALTalk page on our website. Click here to share other resources or ideas.

    • “You end inequality by acknowledging your privileges.” – Video with AmeriCorps alum Hari Kondabolu as part of the twenty speaker series #InequityIs from the Ford Foundation that features leading nonprofit, foundation, and corporate voices ranging from Gloria Steinem to Elton John
    • “One of the barriers to improving race relations in America is the fact that our cities, towns, and neighborhoods remain segregated by both race and class. Some cities have undertaken ‘Dinners Across Difference,’ where white folks and people of color work together to create community.” – Dinners Across Difference
    • “Hire for culture contribution, not culture fit.” – YouTube video with Judith Williams, global head of diversity, Dropbox
  •  “I just want to reaffirm, to you but mainly to myself, that whatever you’re feeling is OK, that the world is not as awful as it seems, and that the work we do is important.” – “Whatever You’re Feeling is Okay,” by nonprofit blogger Vu Lee

Resources for Families/Children

  • “As a classroom teacher, I knew my strength was not in having all of the answers but in understanding the importance of creating safe space for people to gather and grieve and to heal” – David J. Johns,  Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, in an op-ed on how to discuss wrongful deaths with children
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