“Let’s write / make things right.” –Paris A., Grade 9, 826LA
Dear 826 Community,
I write this to you as our communities, our hearts, and much of the nation are afire with the anguish of Black lives ended, upended, and rearranged by systems too long built on bias and too long built by and for those who often lack basic regard for Black lives.
Our hearts are heavy with the murders of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, of Ahmaud Arbery, of Tony McDade, of David McAtee and of a vast multitude of others over centuries whose names have gone spoken and unspoken.
And where no words feel enough, nor do enough justice, we name the essential, the true—we stand with Black students, colleagues, and communities across the 826 Network and across the country. Black Lives Matter. Black joy matters. Black voices matter.
We have all heard the phrase “these unprecedented times” countless times this spring, and very possibly found ourselves saying it too. Indeed, in the context of COVID-19, it has been. However, this moment tells the story of the violence of white supremacy, systemic oppression, and structural racism that extends so much further back than this year and this pandemic.
This moment calls us to reflect on what we stand for. If you have not yet had the opportunity, please read 826 MSP’s organizational statement on the murder of George Floyd which occurred just blocks from their center. We stand with them in every word. In this time of pain and rage and sadness, in this time ripe to be a true moment of change, our students’ writing and voices reflect clear-eyed visions for radical transformation. As Samantha Sencer-Mura, Executive Director of 826 MSP, shared earlier this week, “young people are imagining and fighting for more radical solutions than we adults even allow ourselves to believe in.”
Young people tell vital and too-often underrepresented stories of community and lived experiences, they remind us that creativity is boundless, and they outline indispensable visions for change. While this moment calls us to raise our voices clearly alongside them, let our students’ visions and choices and voices be what continues to move us all.
What does it mean for 826 to radically support young peoples’ visions? How do we use our power as a collective to assert and act upon our alignment with the principles of the Black Lives Matter movement? These are questions that will center our work and guide us to taking effective, catalytic actions both within our 826 walls and outside of them.
It is the daily work of many that is and will become the path to justice. And our work is a part of that path to justice. As we all know intimately, writing and voice are tools of power, tools necessary to democracy, tools of empathy, and tools of justice. And as the 826LA team recently reiterated, education justice is racial justice.
At 826, we believe in the power of a movement. And as is true at the heart of every movement, our actions are not done in isolation. We are a network of 10 organizations, 200 team members, and 5,000 volunteers, but most essentially, we are a network of over 80,000 students, of 80,000 voices, of innumerable stories claiming a brighter and more just future.
With visions for a better forward together,
Chief Executive Officer, 826 National