Black Lives Matter
Read our open letter in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement
To all of our wonderful community,
We wanted to check-in. This last week has been hard. Our hearts ache after seeing the brutal and unjust murder of another Black man at the hands of the police, especially in the shocking shadow of COVID-19. We are reminded that our system is broken, that systemic racism has allowed the unjust treatment of Black people in interactions with our public safety officials.
MESA was born out of the civil rights movement and we remain an equity first organization. The Oregon MESA team is black, brown, white, indigenous, asian and we will continue to stand in allyship with our Black brothers and sisters.
To our Black friends and family, we stand with you. We love you. We hope that you are able to find some time to take care of yourself, and recharge.
To our non-Black friends and family, it is important to be educated and understand what is happening now and why it is happening. These past few days have not been solely about the death of George Floyd, Tony McDade, and even before that Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
These marches and protests have been about the decades of silencing, of oppression, and of violence. This is also about the way that racism has been ingrained into our institutions and systems for generations, in ways that are so subtle, many of us don't recognize the ways it impacts our everyday lives. This is privilege. We all have it in different ways. It's not our fault that many of us have it. It's subtle, but we need to acknowledge the truly profound ways that it affects our daily lives.
It is our job, those with this privilege and the safety it provides, to do work on behalf of the people that we love to do the work that our privilege permits us to do safely. This is work that our Black friends and family might not be able to do without harm--but have been forced to do for decades, regardless. We are in charge of what our society looks like moving forward, and a very important part of our community has been hurting for a very long time. At MESA, we understand that when the cameras are gone and the protests are over, that this continues--this is the reality that many of our students have to deal with in addition to their lives as students, and people.
It’s important to acknowledge that those of us who are not Black will never know what it is like to live in America as a Black person. That’s okay--but we all have an innate ability to see what's right and what's wrong. What has been happening is clearly wrong.
The treatment of Black folks in America needs to change. The individual interactions need to change so that underlying biases and racism don't manifest themselves into violent actions. But that isn’t enough.
The institutions in our society also need to change. A black life has to matter at every step of the justice system. A black life has to matter in every step of the education system. A black life has to matter at every step of the economic system. Systems have to change from policing and bail bonds, unequal educational opportunities, and discriminatory hiring practices.
What are we at MESA doing? We’re processing, we’re sharing our lived experiences of being people color and white folks in this country, and we’re reaching out. We are signing petitions and donating to organizations that support the Black community.
We’re also holding MESA Talks to talk about the Broken and Inequitable Systems in our Society, in an effort to keep the conversation going. You can join us on July 6th. We’ll be talking about what’s happening and asking questions. July 6th may feel far away but the injustices that make up our society will not be changed overnight and will continue if we stop having this conversation.
35 years ago Oregon MESA was founded by the Black leaders of Portland and those who supported their cause of educational equity. MESA Alumni continue to be the Black leaders of this state. We support them and everyone fighting for systemic change and ending institutionalized racism.
To everyone in our community, join us in doing this long and hard work towards justice. We all have eyes to see the world around us and ears to hear what is happening, and we all have to continue to bring these critical human rights issues to the forefront. As Maya Angelou said: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” It's time for us all to listen and to get to work. There is no justice until every Black Life Matters.
Karla Barraza Lopez, MESA student staff & lead author