We are deeply saddened by the violence and injustice against our black brothers and sisters and those who lost their lives based on the color of their skin. There is no excuse for the dehumanization of anyone and we stand in solidarity with all our black brothers and sisters in protest against racism and inequality. In the midst of a global pandemic that is hitting black and brown communities worse than any others, inequality and racism have resulted in horrifying consequences for black Americans this year alone. As we say their names, we honor their souls’ journey: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless others who have lost their lives at the hand of brutality and racism throughout our nation’s history.
We are overwhelmed with gratitude by the outpouring of support for the protesters and feel compelled to clearly state our intention as an organization to continue to do our part; to listen, and take action in the face of injustice, racism, and bigotry. We are painfully aware of the disproportionate number of black people and other people of color in the prison system and how this reflects deeply rooted institutionalized racism.
As leaders in The Freedom to Choose Project, we are keenly aware of the privilege that some of us hold and the impact it has on past and present realities. We are committed to our own personal education recognizing that being anti racist is an action, it’s a verb. As such, we are committed to transformation through looking for opportunities to change whatever we need to change in order to move our organization, our community, our families, and ourselves toward a living breathing vision of our deeply-held values: a society in which all are valued as equals. It is our intention to increase the diversity of our leadership, volunteer team, and staff to include more individuals of all identities, all colors, and all loves, and to use our privilege to promote racial equality, listening deeply to the needs and asks of people of color in our community to amplify the voices of people of color we serve in our work in the California prison system.
In order to move forward, we must acknowledge any unintentional complicity in systematic oppression, forgive ourselves and commit from this day forward to become better partners in the movement for racial equality. It is our duty to continue our commitment to educate ourselves and our communities, to grow, to acknowledge our privilege and to use it to promote good. We realize this is only the beginning.
As you know, The Freedom to Choose Project takes its name from the work of Viktor Frankl, who was one of the few survivors of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. His work serves to remind us to the consequence of ignoring institutionalized racism. The heart of The Freedom to Choose Project is about valuing all people, regardless of color. We are committed to continual growth, healing and evolution – individually, as an organization and as a community. Our deepest prayer is that these recent tragedies provide a wake-up call that leads to action, true transformation and healing, both individually and collectively.
In closing, please join us in asking for a blessing of healing grace, for the highest good of all concerned: May we all come together as a human family, using these challenges as opportunities for awakening and uniting in love, recognizing the inherent worth and value in each and every person.
In Loving Service,
The Freedom to Choose Project Board of Directors
David Paul, Bonnie Paul, Karen Peterson, Holly Cook, Claudia Flores, Michael Lattimore, Molly Reid