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We can do better.


KNOXVILLE, TN (June 3, 2020) The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery join a long list of others and underscore centuries of violence, aggression, and injustice toward black people.

Their deaths have not only left me speechless, they’ve left me heartbroken.

I’ve tried to unpack how our team, as well as the communities we serve, must feel about ingrained systems of racism and oppression which have existed for hundreds of years.

I’ve also reflected and deliberated about how we as an agency should respond. I think it’s vital to state boldly and plainly what we believe:

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee, we stand in solidarity with those fighting against systematic racism and the oppression of black people.

As CEO of this agency, I believe that our team – and, more broadly, mentorship – can be a force for good, a force that can bring about peaceful, systematic change.

But, it’s important that I, and we at Big Brothers Big Sisters, commit to more than platitudes. We can do better.

Moving forward, the BBBS-ETN team will deepen our discussions around race and racism, and we will look in-depth at how we treat race every day. We will provide more trainings and resources for staff, mentors, mentees, and families regarding racism and the oppression of people of color.

We will place emphasis on both creating and expanding initiatives that build bridges of understanding between communities, such as our Bigs in Blue programs. And, through continued dialogue, we will develop a plan regarding our role in addressing racism in our community.

Before I conclude this note, I’d like to provide you an example of how we can do better. Currently, fewer than 15% of our mentors identify as people of color. Does this mean people of color are less passionate about igniting potential in youth through mentorship? Absolutely not. It means I, as the leader of this agency, have work to do in regard to connecting with and hearing from these communities. Over the next few weeks, we’ll set tangible goals in this area.

That’s just one way we can do better to collaborate with people of color and to better support them. There are certainly many more opportunities to improve how this agency addresses race and racism, and I look forward to sharing those plans with you as they develop. We will do better.

Thank you for your support of BBBS-ETN. If you have thoughts, feedback, or recommendations, or if you would like to provide resources around preventing racism – please share them with me.



adminWe can do better.