We invite you to read the following statement from our President & CEO, Kathy Thornton-Bias. Additionally, we encourage you to view this statement from the Executive Committee of Wisconsin Boys & Girls Clubs, found at the bottom of this page.
Like many of you, all of us at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee have been struggling with how to process our feelings and wondering if our country will ever heal its wounds.
Our community and our nation are indeed at an uncomfortable and undeniable point of reckoning.
In these great United States, there is an embedded and prevailing violence against people of color, and in particular against African American men and boys that spans more than two centuries. This precedent is deeply rooted in our history.
It is especially gut wrenching to think that the young men and women that we support and serve at the Clubs, could be treated with the same sort of malice, violence and disregard.
Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee is a non-profit organization whose mission it is to empower and inspire all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. We believe, AN INJUSTICE AGAINST ONE IS AN INJUSTICE AGAINST ALL.
Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee serves an average of 5,000 kids a day, the vast majority of whom are African American and Latino. We believe, BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee was founded by a woman at a time when women could not vote, admitted girls into the Clubs when it wasn’t the national norm, and kept our doors open during the Sherman Park unrest. WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED.
In this spirit, our organization is turning its attention towards actions instead of “just” words. We are in the early stages of developing a Social Action Plan that will spell out specific ideas and tactics our agency will deploy in response to the inequity and systemic racism that plague the Milwaukee community. Our plan will be solution oriented, inclusive of the community voice, and aligned with the mission our Clubs have been committed to for 133 years.
We hope you will join us in this important fight! Follow us on Facebook to learn more.
President & CEO,
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
A Letter From Boys & Girls Clubs of Wisconsin
A message from the Executive Committee of Wisconsin Boys & Girls Clubs:
PASSED BY THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE JUNE 18, 2020
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Wisconsin:
Taking Action in Response to Racial Inequality
Boys & Girls Clubs have stood for inclusion for over 160 years, and our commitment to creating a safe space is unwavering. Our mission is to inspire and empower all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. We cannot inspire kids when they live in fear of losing parents, or their own life and liberty. We cannot enable them to reach their full potential while they witness communities being torn apart in a fight over whether their own lives matter. We need our youth to know: You matter, your dreams matter, and your life matters.
Statements of advocacy are hollow when void of action. It’s time to make change, rather than discuss it. We need real results beyond hashtags and town halls. Seven out of ten club children across our state are kids and teens of color. As we step forward together to resolutely affirm Black lives matter, we best honor good intentions with real outcomes. It is time to do the work of dismantling systemic racism.
We support peaceful protest for change. When a segment of the population is denied justice under the law, it is the obligation of all citizens to make their voices heard. Continued civic engagement is at the core of serving as a responsible citizen, and our sustained action can take many forms.
Within clubs, we will continue to create permanent infrastructure to enforce and maintain policies of inclusion and diversity. We will hold relevant trainings for staff, evaluate our internal hiring practices, and review compensation and promotion policies. Board recruitment and development will reflect diversity and inclusion, and we will implement meaningful best practices to avoid all discrimination.
Within local communities, we will urge mayors, county officials and law enforcement to review use of force policies and report out on reforms. Local officials matter most in changing criminal justice practices, and voter turnout in these elections is low. We will encourage citizens to complete the census, register to vote and show up at the polls.
Within institutions — including our own boards, state alliance, area council and national organization – we will push for programs, policies and partnerships to better support equity work. We will ask for relevant racial trainings in regional and national conferences. We will value our staff of color to ensure they feel included. And we will encourage all to reward diversity at the club level, push for policies of inclusion, and amend strategic plans to reflect this new reality.
As individuals, some will march in protest or sign petitions. Others will donate to victim funds or support black-owned business. And all of us will vote. But we will also need to step out of our comfort zone, including uncomfortable conversations with coworkers, friends and family on recognizing white privilege. One of the intentional outcomes will be learning and unlearning biases that can cause harm in our clubs and communities.
As leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure this work is sustained. Everyone has the opportunity to choose how they participate, but no one has the choice of whether or not they are a participant. We must plan, strategize, organize, advocate and unify around policy change to address racial disparities in education, health care, employment, incarceration and our criminal justice systems.
Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation – including youth in our clubs right now — to continue to shape the strategies that move us forward. We best serve our youth tomorrow with meaningful actions today.
The Executive Committee of Wisconsin Boys & Girls Clubs