By Jessie Ulibarri and Neha Patel, SiX Co-Executive Directors
We write to you with profound grief, rage, and frustration, but also with deep hope that this network of state legislators can rise to meet this moment and leverage the power of our collective work to fight for a nation that honors, respects, and protects Black lives. We call for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Ahmaud Arbery, Dreasjon Reed, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Rayshard Brooks, and so many others.
As an organization that works to transform systems through liberatory public policy, we know anti-Black racism is a systemic problem that requires systemic solutions and a lifetime commitment from each of us. And we must acknowledge that historically, SiX has fallen short in our own external and internal work to live fully into this commitment – when we haven’t centered Black voices in public policy or partnership, when we haven’t committed our staff and financial resources to fully uprooting anti-Black racism in public policy, and when we haven’t worked aggressively enough to support, affirm and promote Black voices internally on our staff. This moment calls us all to reckon with the harms of the past and recommit ourselves to a different path forward. SiX is prepared to shift our approach, and this is a first step in a life-long commitment we’re making for this organization. We hope each of you will join us in this work.
We unequivocally condemn over 400 years of anti-Black racism in this country in all its forms, including police violence, white vigilante violence, and the continued lynching of Black people. We envision an equitable, resilient, healthy, and prosperous future for every person, and ending anti-Black racism and white supremacy is central to the world we are working to build. To that end, you will find three separate messages below – one to Black legislators, one to legislators of color who are not Black, and one to white legislators.
We have written messages to folks from different racial identities in our network because we recognize the unique pain, rage, and burden that our Black colleagues are carrying; the opportunity we have to call in legislators of color who are not Black to show up in solidarity and action; and the significant responsibility that lies with our white colleagues to radically and rapidly shift their orientation toward racial justice from here on out.
As leaders of color who are not Black, we know that our liberation, our freedom, and our ability to live free from fear is rooted in ending anti-Blackness and white supremacy. We are holding with humility that organizations like ours are not and should not be at the center of decision making for Black-led grassroots movements that have spent centuries advancing justice before this moment in time. We are committed to following the leadership of Black-led organizations and leaders in the Movement for Black Lives. We remain committed to our mission to empower, embolden, and equip state legislators to build and wield progressive governing power by/with/for the people they represent. And this means centering the voices, experiences, and demands of Black folks in this country in public policy.
We write these letters with the heaviness of knowing that you all combined have tremendous power to create real change, but that tensions, ignorance, internal disputes, fear, and division have stood in the way of change in the past and threaten to stand in the way again today. We write with the guarded optimism of knowing that today, state leaders are the greatest chance for change but that it will take all of us, working together, to achieve that. Our nation is yearning for visionary and bold leadership–let us work together to provide it.
We want to remind you that we are here to provide state legislators with the tools needed to shape impactful public policy and build partnerships–across chambers, across regions, across state lines, and with grassroots movements. Please, reach out with policy, strategy, or communications questions. We are also here to lift up your leadership–so let us know what you are working on so that we can amplify and share.
–Jessie Ulibarri and Neha Patel, SiX Co-Executive Directors