In keeping with my tradition, I wanted to write you this reflection today as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Here at N Street Village a vital part of our mission and our commitment is to be engaged in the cause of furthering social justice.
Every day we are witness to the racial injustice which persists in America today. I believe that we are also called to hold fast to the dream of true equality and liberation toward which Dr. King pointed and to discern our individual roles in its pursuit.
I think often about my responsibility as a white leader and what it means to be an ally in the struggle for racial justice – particularly in a time of national crisis when hatred and bigotry has been invited out of the shadows and has become so visible and vulgar on “main street.”
We are a long way from where so many of us would like to be – our work is far from over. And those of us born in the 60’s or before know that we are starting to pass the torch to a younger generation of people in hopes that you will go farther and longer than we have been able.
This year I want to share with you three things: a short movie (15 minutes), a medium length listen (30 minutes), and a quick read (5 minutes). These are things which have affected me over this past year, and I hope you will find interest, learning and inspiration from them. They all revolve in some way around the current and historical issues of segregation, the disenfranchisement of the Black community, and DC’s particular racial equity challenges related to affordable housing and homelessness.
- Segregated by Design: This short film is narrated by Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law and it borrows from his work. It is a vivid and clear (and quick) education about the ways in which African Americans have deliberately segregated by legal (“de jure”) means, denied the wealth accumulation enjoyed by the white community, and ultimately fated to impoverished communities and an intergenerational cycle of poverty.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates Interview: You may be familiar with Coates, who became well-known after publishing articles in The Atlantic and elsewhere – one of which was called The Case for Reparations. In that article, Coates argues that during slavery and post-slavery, white wealth accumulation in America was created ‘on the backs of Black labor which was stolen.’
- Racial Equity preface to Homeward DC 2.0: As you probably know, the Interagency Council on Homelessness will be releasing our second iteration of our city-wide plan to address homelessness in two months (at the March 10th Full Council meeting, open to the public: 2pm @ 441 4th Street (One Judiciary Square)). Last summer I co-chaired a sub-committee on Racial Equity with Robert Warren from the People for Fairness Coalition. Our assignment was to discuss how the topic of racial equity should be embedded into Homeward DC 2.0. There had been no explicit mention of racial equity in our 1.0 version and we sought to correct this.
In gratitude for all of your good work, and wishing us all a year ahead with more justice, more peace,
N Street Village CEO