Our Commitment to Equity
At PYB we make every effort to center our work around equity and inclusion. For the past few years our staff-written Equity Statement has been a guidepost in this work. Additionally, as the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020 grew in size and scope, we felt compelled to make a public statement on our continuing efforts and need to create an anti-racist environment for our students, staff, and volunteers. Both of these statements are shared below.
PYB Statement On Anti-Racism
Like so many of you, we have watched in horror over the last few weeks as we are reminded, once again, that every day in this nation Black Americans are experiencing the most insidious forms of racism and its most violent ends.
We find ourselves outraged at the senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many other unarmed Black people. We see the additional pain and exhaustion that these events have brought to the members of the Black community. To our community of Black students, staff, families, and supporters – your lives matter. PYB believes that Black lives matter. We see the emotional labor that you are expending to educate others and we are trying our best to ease, rather than add to, your burden. PYB commits to supporting each other in the best way we know how – with care and compassion.
PYB serves a very diverse community of low income youth, and about one third of our students identify as Black. We know from experience that it is ineffective and irresponsible to serve our students of color without a deep awareness of the existing white dominant culture within our walls, and the ongoing desire and effort to counter our own institutional racism.
PYB prepares students of color and young women for a workforce that is overwhelmingly led by white males. Not only are we compelled to provide our students with the best possible training so that they can be exemplary employees, we are also compelled to speak up and fight against racial injustice in order to create a more equitable space for our students to launch their careers once they leave PYB. The fight against racism is core to our mission.
We stand in solidarity with recent calls to action including protest, hiring or promoting Black employees in the workplace, and learning more about racial injustice for those who haven’t experienced it firsthand. We also believe that the impact of these actions can be much greater if additional energy is spent to address the full spectrum of racism that exists in this country, from microagressions to murder, within our own personal biases and in the institutions that surround us.
Calling for an end to race-based violence is one of many critical steps on the journey to becoming anti-racist. Together, we can also:
- Learn about Black history.
- Learn about racism, how to identify it, it’s pervasiveness, how it works, and where it lies within ourselves and our community.
- Call out racism when we see it.
- Learn about police reform and additional ways to keep our communities safe.
We encourage you to read PYB’s equity statement to learn more about PYB’s stance on diversity, equity, and inclusion as a whole. We also gratefully acknowledge the work from PYB’s staff, particularly our staff of color, that went into crafting this statement two years ago. As a community we strive to put our words into practice. We fumble and make mistakes for sure, but our commitment remains stronger than ever.
In early June, two of our Black PYB staff members reminded us of the importance of honoring Juneteenth – the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. This American holiday honors the June 19th, 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, and more generally the emancipation of enslaved African Americans throughout the former confederacy of the Southern United States. Thanks to the leadership of these two staff members, we’ve officially added Juneteenth to our list of student and staff holidays this year and in years to come. We are excited to add a Juneteenth educational component to our program, to celebrate the liberation of African American people from slavery, and also reflect on how much more progress is needed in order for Black Americans to truly access freedom, liberty, and justice.
There are other tangible ways to make a difference and create change. For those here in Portland, please consider shopping and dining at these Black-owned businesses and restaurants in our area. For those of you needing to learn more about race, anti-racism, and the impacts of race in education, these books have influenced our work at Portland YouthBuilders:
Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School to Prison Pipeline by Crystal T. Laura
Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates
For White Folks who Teach in the Hood by Christopher Emdin
How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Promises and Possibilities: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline by Kelisa Wing
Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Olou
We have worked for equity within Portland YouthBuilders for years yet there is so much more to do. We recognize the ways in which our white dominant system has perpetuated an inequitable and destructive system and we vow to continue the work to do better. We will continue to examine ourselves, our work, and our role in this community. We commit – as individuals and as an organization – to working toward dismantling systemic and institutional racism in our organization, in our personal interactions, in our decision-making, and beyond. Our students deserve nothing less.
At PYB, we are committed to creating a community where our students and staff can thrive and reach their full potential. However, we recognize that inequity, intentional and unintentional, has always existed in the United States.There is a false promise that anyone can achieve success through hard work. Our nation was built upon the labor, ideas and efforts of exploited people who were denied success. Oppression continues to thrive today, sustaining the wealth and power of the dominant culture and minimizing access to opportunities and resources for everyone else.
At PYB, we believe that communities are strengthened when diversity is honored. We believe we have a responsibility to interrupt and confront inequity. We value the unseen and unacknowledged capabilities and talents of our students. We believe in helping our students recognize the value and contributions of their race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, faith, socioeconomic status and country of origin. It is not only vital to their success but essential to our purpose.
At PYB, we commit to continuously reflect and challenge the ways in which we, as a community, and as individuals, perpetuate inequity. Remaining passive or neutral makes us complicit in the oppression of others. By seeing, hearing, and valuing the diversity and strength of our students and staff, we hope to create connection and growth for everyone. This work will be hard. We will make mistakes. Because we know this work requires discomfort and causes pain, we commit to treating each other with care. Change begins by acknowledging the decency and dignity that every human being deserves.