Dear Play At The Core Community Members,
Play At The Core stands in solidarity with Black people as they grieve and express outrage at the killing of George Floyd, and the unending violence born out of systemic racism against communities of color in our country.
As the leader of this organization, and particularly as a white man, I have a responsibility beyond simply stating this fact. I have a responsibility to listen, to learn, and to act.
Play At The Core’s mission to “help youth thrive by inspiring change through play” is rooted in the practice of social work. My original intention was to have Play At The Core strive to embody the core values of the social work profession — central among these, is a commitment to social justice. In recent days, I have been reflecting on the fact that our mission fails to convey our true reason for being. I feel the need to state the following clearly: The “change” Play At The Core seeks is to see youth champion over adversity. In the communities of color where we work, this adversity is manifested, first and foremost, as racism.
As a multi-racial organization, Play At The Core has attempted to embody the unique values that guide our work. The most aspirational among these is to Shift Power. We have aimed to do this in our programming by: taking our partners’ lead in prioritizing the focus for our work, leveraging community strengths against the challenges they identify, and asking questions rather than sharing information.
Our work to Shift Power will continue to demand much of us. We have not found ways to effectively elevate the voices of our partners to confront oppression within their organizations. We have not consistently challenged perspectives that seek to minimize or marginalize the pain of communities of color. And we have yet to fully commit to do hard work internally to ensure that we are educated and equipped to be the kind of ally that our community deserves.
As the events over the last two weeks have penetrated the public consciousness, I have been reflecting on how my whiteness has given me the privilege of being able to separate my work from my personal life. I can no longer say that my work is committed to pursuing social justice, while I avoid conversations about racism and whiteness with family and friends. This silence dishonors my love and respect for friends and colleagues that I hold dear, and undermines Play At The Core’s ability to be a catalyst for change by enabling the very systems that our work seeks to combat.
I share these reflections in the hope of channeling this energy to more fully realize the aspirations for our work to confront racism directly. Today, I make the following commitments:
First, I commit to seek, to listen, to elevate, and to give credit to the perspectives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) that inform our work. I acknowledge that it is unfair to burden these individuals with having to teach me, and I personally commit to learning the history of communities of color and the role whiteness plays in sustaining oppression and institutional racism.
Second, I commit that our work with Play At The Core will more explicitly confront racism, and grow our organizational capacity to engage in conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion. To begin and sustain this, I will seek the guidance of external facilitators in this work, to allow our team to fully engage and participate together. I will more frequently create space for our team to have hard conversations internally about racial injustice and refocus on the role we should play in dismantling it.
Third, I commit to challenge other white people, especially those in leadership, to rethink our personal narrative about our own success and our role in supporting social change. I will use my privilege to start dialog, ask hard questions, and normalize discomfort in this ongoing learning process. I will break down barriers that have kept me from integrating my work into my personal life.
I will listen.
I will learn.
I will act.
Play At The Core will prioritize work to undo racism within our organization and with our partners.
With Love and Gratitude,
Executive Director, Founder
Play At The Core