(Letter to the Refinery House Team including to our Health Service Providers posted on June 8th, 2020)
I’d like to make a statement about a week of being “muted”
We’ve not just been silent this week due to a posture in response to a social media movement. We’ve been silent this week out of a sincere longing to listen & learn from the black communities grief. This season of suffering certainly has the potential to teach us a great deal about how we respond to injustice specifically in regards to black lives, but also generally about what racism is and what it looks like when when it springs up in our own hearts, and in the thoughts and words of people around us.
Quite frankly. I don’t feel quite done with my own posture of silence yet. Not because I’m not prepared to say exactly what I think or feel. But because the weight of the grief being exposed right now is sacred. I’m not anxious for anyone to move on from it.
I’m not sure yet how we’ll present this on social media. Certainly with some acknowledgement of how our investment in social justice doesn’t start and end with a week of silence. It doesn’t end on a bent knee in protest for 8.43 minutes. Our work isn’t completed by sharing a video on social media like an ally. The only right response, is for us to move forward different, and be more prepared than ever to face the great need to increase the appreciation of diversity, advocate for the empowerment of poc, and support the dismantling of the systems that have oppressed people for centuries.
I advocate for the empowerment of the black, indigenous & other minority groups within our community.
I have a lot to learn about being an ally to these communities and we have work to do to truly be an inclusive and diverse work place.
My hope is that we can transition this into ongoing conversation and education. While I think that social media statements or initiatives do matter, it’s very important to me that such things represent actual work being done. We’re confidant in where we stand on these matters, but scared too. Scared of getting it wrong, and also prepared to face up to our mistakes when we do.
Where is Aly & what does she think? She’s bone tired. Her feet have been on the ground loving on and standing in the gap for black friends that are reeling. She has circles under her eyes from fielding hundreds of texts between friends who are in various stages of awareness of this situation. She called me near tears when I sent this to her. She said, I feel like I need to say something but I can’t form complete sentences right now. She deeply felt the weight of “I need to speak to the team”, and also the exhaustion of being a friend in the thick of this. My response was: You are doing all the beautiful work you need to be doing in this moment. You don’t need to say it to prove it. May we not be doing things because we think we should, or cause we feel we have to, but rather because we ARE. No one I know is more FOR this movement that Ms. Aly McRae
Here’s what we’re doing immediately.
- We’ve committed to purchasing 2 books for each of our staff this year. The book we’re currently sourcing is called: “I’m still here – Black dignity in a white world” by Austin Channing Brown. Neither Aly nor I have read it, but the recommendation comes from a reliable Ally. We believe that this specific story, will speak to our specific team well, and then we’ll invite conversation via some sort of virtual book study guide. This is non mandatory, we know that for a variety of reasons not all our team mates will choose to participate. That’s OKAY! We think that actually purchasing the books and putting them in the hands of our staff is an important step.
- When RH commits to a charity, we try to choose one that we are able to maintain a personal connection with. We’re looking to diversify this list of organizations we donate to, and are in conversation with people who are close to this issue to choose a new charity specifically related to the empowerment of black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), to include in our donations. We currently donate .65-.75% of our annual revenue and our goal is to increase that over the next number of years, to the point of consistently hitting the 1% target.
- We’re immediately releasing a scholarship for our next series of classes for applicants that represent a minority.
I’m keenly aware of our failure to diversify representation at the Refinery House, and can clearly see that in order to do this effectively, stronger bridges need to be built between us and people that represent minorities. I’m very interested in building that bridge, which requires our team to be an (actual) safe place for people of colour to work and visit, and also requires extra effort to provide those opportunities (such as scholarships).
We’re rolling up our sleeves to address this on our team and in our community. Integrity means that what is said (social media or via policies or in person) matches from every angle.
Heidi Epp – Refinery House Owner