An Open Letter to Our Community

Jun 2, 2020 | News

Dear United Way Partners, Supporters and Friends,

Over the past several weeks, we have experienced an onslaught of circumstances that have tried and tested every ounce of our human fabric on a local, national and global scale. We’ve seen tornadoes tear through our city and devastate both the new and historic landscape of some of our prized neighborhoods. A virus, that once seemed distant and far removed, has penetrated our seemingly impenetrable, “that won’t happen here” bubble, forcing us into isolation and new norms. We ran for Ahmad, but well before his story became just another hashtag, we now have George Floyd.

George Floyd’s death was horrific – the post-slavery, pre-civil rights, Jim Crow South, kind of horrific.

It is the face of what my parents saw and were taught to fear growing up in Mississippi in the 1940’s and ‘50s. It is the spirit that lives on in the teenagers who passed by me on my daily walk in my affluent community and yelled “nigger,” laughing as they drove by.

It is vile. It is evil. It can strangle the humanity out of our nation, as it demands over and over again for another cheek to be turned, another conversation to be had. Another town hall, another march. More press conferences, more elected officials. More riots. More anger. More violence.

I was reflecting this morning on a passage of scripture out of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was given a message to share with a group of people who were living in exile. In short, he told them to seek the welfare of the city where they had been sent… for in seeking the city’s welfare, they would find their own. These words have stayed with me over these last few trying days.

There is something here for our organization, and our community as a whole, to consider. There is a call to action, beyond our usual work, to seek out the welfare and well-being of our neighbors.

I believe many of us, as leaders of our community, are uniquely positioned to use our influence and connections in ways that not only bring about the most good, but also stir the hearts and minds of men and women to think beyond today, but truly consider what we want for our tomorrow.

We will move past today’s headlines, but then what? How do we stop simply responding to tragedies like George Floyd and instead actively seek out practices that cultivate equity, justice and inclusivity for our community year-round? For me, this is where the big payoff lives.

Crises force us to act and respond in some manner. My ask of my organization, and of all those in positions of influence or leadership, is that we take this moment in our country’s history and not simply react, but respond, by making this a pivotal moment that requires us to put some stakes in the ground around equity and racial injustice.

And I believe that we can. I believe in the people and spirit of our community to chart a path toward authentic reconciliation. For as we seek the welfare of our community, we will find our own.

Best, Erica Mitchell
Chief Community Impact Officer
United Way of Greater Nashville