An open letter from Lydia Place’s Executive Director, Emily O’Connor

Dear Community,  

Like many of you, I’ve spent the days since the May 25th killing of George Floyd, watching, reading, and listening as protests against racism, white supremacy, police violence, and widespread injustice gain momentum throughout our country (and around the world). The days have been filled with beautiful and overwhelmingly peaceful acts of protest by thousands upon thousands of people in the streets, in unity and love, calling for action, for commitments to dismantling our deeply racist systems of policing, criminal justice, housing, employment, education and health – and replacing them with a just democracy.  

This surge of advocacy has taken up space in the national conscience in a way we haven’t seen in decades, reminding me there are moments in history when progress is within reach, when demands for tangible and urgent change seem to have the power of inevitability. I am filled with hope that we’re witnessing one of those moments now.  

Our systems of white supremacy and economic exploitation are cemented in our country’s history.  Four hundred years of deliberate oppression have led us to this moment. As individuals, as a community, and as a nation, we are struggling, scared, angry, heartbroken, confused, and grieving.  Lydia Place must, and does, have a position on racism and injustice. EQUITY is one of LP’s core values. You can read about our values HERE 

We recognize that we cannot address the root causes of homelessness, and therefore cannot solve the crisis of homelessness, without confronting and dismantling systems of racism. We join our communities of color, particularly our Black community, in mourning the killing of George Floyd by police officers, and the countless others who came before him. We support the Black community’s advocacy, protests, organizing, and mobilizing, and we stand united in the call for significant and widespread reforms. 

Lydia Place is committed to creating space for us to dive deeply into our work both as individuals and collectively as an organization, and to help our community find its voice and our common power to address racism at all levels. Racism is so deeply ingrained in America that it impacts every single person; each of us must make conscious, continuous efforts to understand our role in accepting and perpetuating racism, AND the opportunities we can take to dismantle it. We understand that persistent and pervasive racism, and the threat of violence that comes with it, has caused, and continues to inflict, deep and traumatic wounds throughout our communities of color. We recognize that calls for racial justice, calls for reform, calls for honest accountability, calls for basic human rights by Black Americans and communities of color have been largely ignored for generations. 

We will not be distracted by insignificant details that can be used to change the subject or obscure this issue, but will remain focused on the pursuit of systems, and a country, and a global community, that embrace the truth that Black lives matter.  

We must ask ourselves hard questions. In pursuit of justice, in pursuit of equality, in pursuit of humanity, what are we willing to do, ourselves?  What beliefs or comforts, or sense of separation from this terrible grief are we willing to give up? How are we willing to change?   

I’ve been reminded of so many things over the past week, including the deep truth that with privilege comes responsibility. It is our responsibility, as humans, and especially those of us who are white and in this work, to use the painful reality of our privilege, our platforms, our access, to elevate the voices of our marginalized communities.  We must make space for, work to acknowledge, this grief.  We must not be silent, but we must listen first, listen hard, and resist contributing to the ‘noise’ that threatens to uphold the status quo.  

Let us lean in now, be willing to fall and fail, and get up and start again. We will make mistakes, but no mistake would be greater than turning our backs. There are so many ways we can help. Let us welcome others into this space and be willing to learn from each other.   

Racism is a wound that will not heal on its own. Let’s talk with each other. Let’s lead with love and openness, and be willing to be vulnerable. Together, let us create a world worthy of the children born to it.

In solidarity,

Emily O’Connor
Lydia Place Executive Director