Greetings VOBS Friends,
Today I write to acknowledge the events of the past week in Minnesota, and around our country. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th, has left our VOBS community grief-stricken and outraged. On behalf of the VOBS team, I extend our condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Floyd, and to all who are mourning and grappling with injustice in our community and beyond.
As educators in the Twin Cities and Minnesota, we feel a deep sense of responsibility to be part of the solution to respond with compassion and humility today because tomorrow we will need to do much more. Today, we stand allied with the schools, nonprofits and students we partner with. We are committed to supporting young people in the Twin Cities and across Minnesota. Is our commitment alone enough? No. Governor Walz, Mayor Carter and Mayor Frey have all said the same thing: “What we’ve done is not enough.” As members of this community, we have a responsibility to step up and help create change.
At Outward Bound, we have been known to say, “Your disability is your opportunity.” Outward Bound is a legacy organization, and a complicated part of that legacy clings to our work. Outward Bound was founded by a man, for men, and most of those men were white. Today, the majority of people who work in outdoor education are white– it’s a reality born of privilege and access. The uncomfortable truth is that this legacy and this reality are disabilities. Outward Bound’s vision is a more compassionate and resilient world. We believe that we learn best from each other. We value diversity, and diverse experiences. We find strength in and celebrate difference. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, I now believe that our disability is our responsibility to help combat systemic racism.
Diversity and Inclusion leader and author, Jasmine McElroy, says, “Black people are not required to do the work to dismantle systemic racism. Non-Black people, Step up.” As Nancy Lyons said to fellow white allies in the Twin Cities this week, “It is not enough to feel badly.” As a white man, I have a responsibility to practice cultural humility. As a leader, I have a responsibility to listen and learn from other leaders in our community. As an organization, we have a responsibility to keep educating ourselves about systemic racism. We have a responsibility to hire staff who represent the diversity of our vibrant community and the students we serve. We have a responsibility to diversify our Board of Trustees and provide VOBS with representative leadership. Change won’t happen overnight, but today we’ll name our discomfort and the change we want to make.
I believe VOBS also has a responsibility to lift up and amplify the vital work of community organizations who have been educating and making change despite an unfair and harmful system. Please join me in celebrating some of these heroes today. We will support them and learn from them. We will be humble and listen; they have much to teach all of us.
- Ujamaa Place
- New Lens Urban Mentoring
- Upward Bound University of Minnesota
- Gordon Parks High School
- Hiawatha Academies
- YWCA Minneapolis
- East Side Neighborhood Services
- Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities
- We Love Lake Street
- Neighbors United Funding Collaborative (Midway)
- MN Transitions Charter Schools
- Urban Ventures
- Du Nord’s Riot Recovery Fund
- Minneapolis Foundation Fund for Safe Communities
- A Message from Robin-Hickman Winfield to Gordon Parks Students
- The 74: Gordon Parks Showed America The Rage
- The Gordon Parks Foundation
- “I Can’t Breathe Honoring Brother George Floyd, Ujamaa Podcast”
- Sarah Sophie Flicker & Alyssa Klein’s Anti-Racism Resources for White People
- Aces Connection
- Teaching Tolerance
These organizations and resources represent a vast wealth of knowledge and experience, and they are only the beginning. Please share resources with VOBS, and one another in the days, months and years to come.
Voyageur Outward Bound School will continue to listen, learn from and support our community. We are committed to compassion, respect and justice for all people.