Dear Ascend Community:
Ascend is committed to the work of anti-racism. Seeing and experiencing week after week what Black people and families go through, and the threat of violence they are subjected to on a daily basis, is completely unacceptable and must end. We stand against this ongoing oppression and the white supremacy that breeds it. We know that police violence and brutality are devastating to the health and well-being of our nation’s Black families. As an organization that cares deeply about families and their futures, we want to say to all of our Black staff, Fellows, friends, colleagues, and partners that we will do everything in our power to end this menace to you and your loved ones. We see you hurting, and we hold you close. However, we cannot only offer comfort. We must offer actions and be steadfast in our commitment.
We fully commit to the fight to end structural racism. We focus on building and investing in diverse leaders and organizations who reimagine and create equitable systems for children and families. There is a sea of organizers, from all sectors and segments of society, who offer pathways that lead us away from violence and toward justice and shared prosperity. These leaders show us how to face racism head on and highlight how racism permeates our systems and structures. For instance, overcriminalization leads to mass incarceration of Black and brown men which unfairly devastates and destabilizes countless children, families, and communities.
Systems are interconnected, and we recognize that white privilege and supremacy permeate throughout. In this moment and beyond, white leaders must assume responsibility for their own work and radically commit to use and share that power so that we can build a future of justice that we have yet to realize. Action, accountability, and introspection must take part at every level. Ignoring inequities only exacerbates, prolongs them, and deepens their impact. What we need is sustained will to face racial injustice and eliminate it. As part of our mission to seek racial and gender equity, Ascend is committed to protecting and holding sacred Black lives. Ascend will work to establish itself as part of this change by interrogating our biases and taking a more proactive approach to pursue racial equity.
The ubiquity and weaponization of white privilege and supremacy must be universally acknowledged and dismantled. Civil rights icon John Lewis urged us over the weekend to be constructive and not destructive. At Ascend, we want to be urgently constructive: There is so much to do. We join with leaders across our 400-organization strong Ascend Network and 80 Aspen Institute Ascend Fellows to make prosperity widespread and violence and racism non-existent.
Ascend at the Aspen Institute demands swift justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all of the people killed at the hands of their community’s law enforcement. A culture and expectation of complete accountability must be established in every police department now. Together, we can build the collective political and public will for this to take hold.
We call on each on each of you as partners, peer institutions, funders, and leaders, from trustees to those on the frontlines, to use every ounce of your power to speak out and act against police violence and systemic racism – in this moment and each day ahead. Join us. Let’s stand up for Black families and communities and never back down.