Nelson is board chair and Turgeon is CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands.
On May 25, our nation and the world witnessed yet another unarmed black person being killed by law enforcement — the unlawful killing of George Floyd. This followed the senseless deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery just weeks earlier. The result has been unyielding protests around the globe that exemplify an irrepressible outrage and cry for justice.
Even the global pandemic and unofficial start to summer have taken back seats to racial tensions caused by systemic racism and the injustice it creates, leaving our nation wondering what will happen next. In our community, Omaha has joined hundreds of cities and towns across the globe in active protests. The cries for justice only grew louder after yet another senseless death when James Scurlock was killed in Omaha.
The peaceful protests have been accompanied by instances of violence and property damage that have conspired to muddy the message. This isn’t the first time in our history when peaceful demonstrations have been juxtaposed with the violent eruptions of those protesting. There have also been those using the protests as cover for illegal activities. But the majority, those who peacefully assemble to demand dismantling systemic racism and discontinuing police brutality in this country, carry a message and hope of progress and unity that can bridge divides in Omaha and our country.
In 2019, our agency served more than 900 children and youth across seven counties. Many of our youth, unfortunately, experience challenges such as poverty, housing instability, single-parent households, educational inequality and other detractors that may inhibit their potential for success.
We are proud to contribute to being a part of the solution. Big Brothers Big Sisters has a long history of bringing people from differing backgrounds and viewpoints together to serve our youth and their communities. We believe in the transformational impact mentoring relationships can have on the trajectory of a child’s life-backed by evidence and data. But we cannot rest. We must be committed to bringing about racial equity and justice.
How can we understand, stay focused, and be present for our Littles, Bigs and the communities we serve? We, as part of the largest national youth mentoring organization in America, are in deep reflection right now. We know some policies and laws continue to exist in this country that don’t fully represent or benefit marginalized people. But we also know there is hope. Hope is seeing young people relentlessly advocating for their beliefs. Hope is witnessing so many black, brown, and white allies coming together to say, “this is not right.” Our fellow Big Brother Big Sisters leaders (Marcus Allen in Philadelphia, Gale Nelson in Miami, and Alicia Guevara in New York City) have done important work in explaining strategies.
Moving forward, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands is taking action in these ways:
• We will continue to develop culturally relevant training and resources that are shared with our Bigs, families, staff and stakeholders, informed by local and national experts.
• We are continuing to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion as we hire and partner with individuals and organizations that align with our core values.
• We are encouraging our supporters and community members to get out and vote and advocate for legislation and policies that protect all our communities.
• We will continue to support community leaders in their efforts to find solutions to our most challenging social justice issues.
• We will provide a variety of educational resources to our Bigs, Littles and their families, helping them to discuss what is happening and how to deal with the aftermath effectively.
• We will continue to ignite the promise and power of hope in the youth we serve.
Today, to our entire community, we declare proudly that we unapologetically serve our black community. We are at a pivotal moment in history. What will you do differently to join the fight against racism?