VOA’s Statement of Commitment to Justice
Volunteers of America condemns the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a community where our organization has long provided services to those most affected by the inequities in society. But what’s happening now in our country is about much more than a single incident. A long road brought us to this point, whether it was the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, or the many nameless victims along the way. Far too many of the issues we work to alleviate as an organization – poverty, homelessness, hunger and a lack of affordable housing – have their roots in social inequity that has been in place for generations.
This time must be different. History has shown these fires die down and lead to complacency over time. Despite the need to return to “normal,” it cannot mean returning to old injustices. Under pressure from dual national emergencies – with the COVID-19 pandemic followed by civil unrest – we face an opportunity of a lifetime to change course and finally make a true difference. After many years of discussion, now is the time to act. We can no longer stand silently and watch our friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members and communities face these injustices.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
We want a call to action, but that call must first come from within ourselves. We need to look inside, both personally and within our organizations, and commit to making the changes we wish to see in others. Do our boards, CEOs, leadership staff, programing and vendors reflect a dedication to racial equity? Do we continue to use our faith, our mission and our personal convictions to build a sustainable mechanism for social justice in our organization? What can we as individuals do to make changes still left undone?
The people we serve experience systemic prejudice and marginalization in all aspects of their lives, creating roadblocks that those who are more privileged can’t even imagine. What we see happening now, on our TVs and in our streets, should be a rallying cry for everyone dedicated to caring for those who are struggling or vulnerable. But as much as we try, we will never achieve our mission to help anyone build a strong, successful life if we don’t change the systems that led folks to need our help in the first place.
“True peace is not merely the absence of war, it is the presence of justice.” - Jane Addams