A letter from our Executive Director, Gary Clemons.
Dear Friends and Supporters,
This has been an incredibly difficult and heartbreaking week in America. As I've been processing the headlines, trying to figure out how to best speak out and take action, the truth of the matter is simple—this is nothing new or surprising. This has been my reality for the entirety of my 43 years, as well as for all black Americans.
It is because of this reality that I felt compelled to join Friends of the Children, for, at its core, the Friends community Demands Equity for all marginalized communities. I stand behind our model and believe it is an effective way to support overcoming decades of oppression for people of color and people living in poverty.
Now more than ever, we need to look at how our everyday decisions perpetuate this cycle. Racist ideas live in all of us; myself included—it is a constant battle not to assimilate and to instead be unapologetically myself. We need to take the time to understand how systematic racism works, and how actions implemented centuries ago continue to make society feel that differences are synonymous with “lesser than.” When a police officer interacts with someone they consider “lesser than,” you have an outcome like George Floyd. When the public considers someone “lesser than,” you witness an incident like Christian Cooper in Central Park.
It is imperative that we never think of the families we serve as “other” as “less than.” When society imposes a hierarchy because of the way someone talks, acts, treats their children, where they live or the opportunities afforded to them, we make one person’s life worth more than the “other.”
I'm asking you to continue to partner with us to Demand Equity. We need to alter the narrative. We need to start thinking in terms of “equal to.” At Friends of the Children, we have a large responsibility to our kids, our families and our community. The only thing “wrong” with our families and youth is that they don’t have equitable access to opportunity. By making sure we believe and live this, we can begin the process of dismantling institutional racism. As Angela Davis said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Your support means so much to the families we serve at Friends–NY. Thank you for standing beside us and helping to make our work possible. Together we can work to ensure that the children we serve enter adulthood safe from the injustices that those before them have had to endure.