Black Lives Matter.
I’m writing you today as I reflect on these past two extraordinary weeks for the United States.
We are saddened and angered not only by the killing of George Floyd, but also Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the many others taken by acts of racist violence. There is no denying that systemic racism persists, and it weakens and diminishes our nation.
Like so many of us, I have felt many emotions since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. On one hand I have felt a deep sadness, anger, helplessness and on the other hand a great sense of responsibility, purpose and resolve to do whatever I can to mobilize the Cultural Vistas community to make a difference to address the pervasive and systemic injustice.
I wish to empathize in particular with what our Black staff, board members, alumni, and partners feel in this moment. For some, these weeks have been particularly painful and exhausting in ways I cannot fully appreciate.
Cultural Vistas as an organization, and myself as an individual, stand with you and in solidarity with the movement for racial justice and to defend Black lives.
We know we must do more.
Three years ago, thanks to a small group of dedicated staff and board members working in concert, we embarked on a journey to better develop intercultural competence and bring a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens to our work. We’ve made some meaningful progress, but significant work still lies ahead.
We are committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion across our organization. Our efforts will touch staff, board members, participants and partners alike.
We will work across our team to prioritize specific action, and annually measure our performance against industry benchmarks.
But we know we must do more.
Real understanding requires justice; lasting connection is rooted in equality.
Cultural Vistas exists to enrich minds, develop global skills, and connect lives. And while we do this through international exchange, we have always seen the purpose of our work being to create shared understanding and bring people closer together.
Recent weeks have made clear: real understanding requires justice; lasting connection is rooted in equality.
Even as we grapple with the uncertainties of the pandemic and what future for international exchange may lie ahead, we will keep listening and learning, and finding ways Cultural Vistas can contribute for meaningful change. We are in this for the long haul.
George Floyd was a spark that lit a flame. We’ve seen thousands of people – of every age, color, and creed – take to the streets in big cities and small towns across all 50 states. They inspired crowds across Europe, Africa, and Australia to gather in solidarity with Americans’ fight for justice, and also to demand an end to racism and justice in their own countries.
The current moment requires us all to look inside ourselves and reach out to one another, to appreciate our differences and embrace our common humanity, but most of all, to stand up and work together to dismantle the scourge of systemic racism.
It is up to all of us to keep that flame alive.
Dr. Jennifer Clinton
Cultural Vistas President and CEO