Senseless acts of racism and violence in our country continue to devastate, threaten and cut short the lives of our peoples and our communities. In this open letter, DreamYard's Board of Directors responds to the recent murder of two African Americans at a Kroger's grocery store and the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. And we remember the poignant words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that "In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there 'is' such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” As a community committed to anti-racism, we hold fast to these words and invite you to join us in acting upon the “fierce urgency of now."
During the month of October 2018 amid continued anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, our nation suffered a tragic loss of human lives. In one solitary week, two African Americans were shot to death at a Kroger’s grocery store near Louisville, Kentucky. The man and woman were both in their late sixties and the gentleman was apparently with his twelve-year-old grandson. The 51-year old white supremacist accused of the murders tried to enter a predominantly black church nearby minutes before the shootings. Later the same week, in an event the Anti-Defamation League calls the largest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history, eleven people were murdered and six injured at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh by a man armed with an AR-15 and three handguns. Upon his arrest, he reportedly told authorities he was seeking to kill Jews.
Richard Cohen from the Southern Poverty Law Center aptly noted that the Pittsburgh massacre “…reminds us of the slaughter of nine African American worshipers at Charleston’s Mother Emmanuel Church in 2015, the killings of six Sikh worshipers at a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2014, and, of course, the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 that left four young African American girls dead.”
The thirteen murders that occurred last week – in the south and in the north – happened alongside attempted pipe bombings in New York City by a white supremacist who targeted prominent and frequent critics of President Trump.
All of this came on the 20th Anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard – who was finally laid to rest at the Washington National Cathedral. The glimmer of hope here, as noted by Retired Bishop Gene Robinson who presided over the service: Shepard’s symbolic return to the church “represents a remarkable step forward for LGBTQ Christians.”
The events of October 2018 underscore “the fierce urgency of now.” Civil Rights Leader, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used this phrase on at least two occasions. The first was the “I Have A Dream” speech delivered in August of 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The second was his seminal “Beyond Vietnam” speech – a blistering attack on the war delivered in April of 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City. In both speeches, he expressed impatience in the face of impending disaster:
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there "is" such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
Dr. King encouraged people to take action and speak out, “The evils of oppression are only aided and abetted by the tyranny of silence. If all persons of good will were to speak against oppression the bright day of freedom and dignity for all men would be close at hand.”
DreamYard and its Board of Directors recognize and understand this urgency and need to stand up and speak out. For 25 years, the organization has created programs to develop artistic voice, nurture young peoples’ desire to make change and cultivate the skills necessary to reach positive goals. As our organizational mission states, we have every expectation that with sustained and meaningful supports our youth will develop the necessary tools to become creative and engaged citizens, life-long learners and the leaders and innovators of the 21st Century. Additionally, DreamYard remains committed to being an anti-racist organization and will continue to intentionally build a path toward racial justice and equity. We choose to focus on and amplify the voices of our young people because they are our future, and our future is full of hope, compassion, joy and the promise of a just society.
Let’s stand up together and make it known that we will never accept violence and hate as the “new normal”.
Our hearts go out to the families of:
… brothers Cecil Rosenthal and David Rosenthal,
…husband and wife Sylvan Simon and Bernice Simon,
…And all victims of senseless tragedies.
The DreamYard Board of Directors