SKAGIT COUNTY, Wash., Jun. 17, 2020—
Community Action of Skagit County believes Black Lives Matter. We are deeply disturbed, saddened and outraged by the violent, senseless killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minnesota (while three other police officers looked on) — and following far too many killings of Americans who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, or other people of color, including Manuel Ellis, Amaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, and Trayvon Martin.
We believe justice and peace will only come through our commitment to racial equity and by following the leadership of communities of color.
We commit to listening, learning and acting to support the voices and leadership of communities of color and people with lived experience in poverty, including on our staff, board, and in our community. Community-based leadership is the key to lasting solutions. We also recommit to harnessing our collective will in Skagit County to direct resources toward the real building blocks of equitable, thriving communities: affordable housing, food security, healthcare, education, jobs, and more.
Furthermore, as Washington was one of the first states impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Skagit is one of the hardest-hit counties, we recognize the intersection of systemic racism and poverty. We acknowledge and learn from the history and truth of our national, state and local policies that have historically blocked Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities out of health and housing systems, education, employment and generational wealth-building. These social determinants of health have impacted the health and safety of communities of color, even before COVID.
In Skagit County, our Latinx community comprises 18% of our population, yet accounts for more than 60% of positive COVID cases (75% in May) — suffering from COVID at an alarming three- to four-times the percentage of their population. Because of crowded housing and working conditions, these neighbors were the most vulnerable before COVID, and have faced the greatest exposure and illness since.
Specifically, we recommit to:
- Equity in Community Change: Building on relationships of trust with Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color, we will join and champion collaborative efforts to listen to and understand needs, and co-create solutions that make all members of our community healthy and safe – including working to change public attitudes, policies and budgets to address inequity and build on community strength. We will continue to ask our board, managers, elected officials and community partners to use the Governor’s 10-Year Plan to Reduce Poverty & Inequity as a guide for centering anti-poverty solutions on the voice and experience of those in poverty, and the history and truth of oppression, discrimination and inequity. Please stay tuned for more, and in the meantime, see:
- Equity in Services: We are actively listening to the needs and ideas of our customers, program participants, and broader community to adapt services to needs. We are also working to center our data gathering and analysis on race and equity to help us see and mend our blind spots.
- Equity in Staffing: For several years we have been working on improving equity across our compensation and staffing system. We know we have more to do. We are working to create pathways for the expertise and talent of our staff with lived experience to grow and lead our organization. Our top leadership has an explicit goal, but not yet in policy, to have our leadership reflect the community we serve.
- Equity in Governance: We remain committed to maintaining at least one-third of our Board of Directors as representing people with lived experience in poverty, and will continue to prioritize and nurture leadership for people of color in our community. In the fall of 2019, our Board included equity as one of its three primary goals for 2020. Among many other things, this includes reviewing our vision, mission and strategic plan to more explicitly center racial justice and equity for all as the leading value of our governance, services and community change work.
We are called back to the Promise of Community Action: to embody the spirit of hope and care for our entire community. That means not just including but centering the voices and needs of communities of color that have been left behind for too long. We believe change is possible, but only through authentic and sustained commitment, and we will work with all who share these values to make them a reality in every corner of our county, state and nation.