PartnersGlobal has always been committed to elevating the voices and actions of those most impacted by injustice or violence wherever we work in the world. We are equally committed to hearing from, learning from and elevating the voices of Black People in the United States who today are at the forefront of racial justice movements and activism.
For example, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, inspires us as she recently called for Radical Imagination. Imagine a more equitable world where the police are no longer necessary, where communities are at the heart of their own security and Black People are flourishing without fear for their safety. We do not live in that world right now, and there is an outpouring of anger, pain and frustration. As a former teacher, Brittany extols us to “plan backwards.” What is the end state we want? Start there. And then get to work. And yet, as UNC-Greensboro Chancellor, Frank Gilliam wrote, we know what a good education looks like, we know what quality health care looks like, and we even know how to reform the criminal justice system. His call is for a renewed sense of our shared fate and sustaining the public will to change how institutions work in the US so that all people are treated fairly. And, Rashad Robinson, the President of Color of Change, reminds us that we are the changemakers we are waiting for and that we have the power to change our collective story as a country. We are listening to these inspirational voices and promoting their examples of evidence-based reforms, making way for the leading role of young activists and heeding their invitations for concrete actions.
At PartnersGlobal we have also been taking the time this week to reflect internally, in deep conversation with each other about the impact not only of the horrific police violence of the past week, but the long-term effects of systemic racism on our staff, our industry and society. America was built upon genocide of indigenous peoples and the enslavement and labor of Africans; systems of racism, sexism, and the concentration of wealth and power have been the foundation of a deeply unjust society. We know that the work of fighting racism is hard and especially painful, but we refuse to turn away or stay silent. We want to share some of those reflections and commitment to turning our collective grief into action:
- It is important to clearly name the injustice happening and speak out against it. The killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade as well as thousands of other killings and harassment of unarmed (and often unnamed) black citizens in our nation, is driving outrage and calls for action by people who are tired of the police murdering black citizens with impunity. We share in this outrage. We stand in solidarity with the protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement.
- We acknowledge, appreciate and follow the lead of the hundreds and thousands of organizations and activists who have been working on racial justice, criminal justice reform, and reducing police brutality and violence in the United States for decades. Systemic change is needed in the United States to dismantle white supremacy. We support and amplify their work (and appreciate private sector allies like Ben & Jerry’s who use their communications platform for systemic change.)
- As international development and peacebuilding professionals who work on criminal justice, security sector reform, community policing and human rights in other countries, we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, acknowledging the disproportionate impact of violence on Black People. We adhere to the principles of positive peace, and the need to address systemic, structural violence, not just physical violence. We will continue to support the vital role of civil society to hold governments and security sectors accountable. Our Partners Network and local colleagues from around the world have many worthwhile lessons to share with us as their US counterparts. Global solidarity against racism and police brutality in the U.S. is evident and PartnersGlobal will continue to serve as a conduit for sharing those lessons.
- We commit first and foremost to change in our own backyard, starting with ourselves, our staff, our networks and our industry. PartnersGlobal is proud of the diversity on our DC team that we feel reflects our constituency and our values. The current crisis and the intense process of self-reflection has heightened our sensitivities to and awareness of organizational practices that promote white privilege. The international development field is one where whiteness wields considerable structural power, and we continue to trade in the binary thinking of first world/third world and global south/global north (taken directly from Leila Billing). Liberian academic, activist and author Robtel Neajai Pailey speaks eloquently about subverting the “white gaze” of development. Our field is based on neo-colonial constructs, where the donors’ will often overshadows the real needs on the ground. PartnersGlobal takes pride in having focused since its foundation on giving primacy to local needs and voices. But there is no room for complacency, and we must now redouble our efforts to correct implicit biases that have crept into our own operations, practices and outlook on the world. We must continue to work with our partners and peers in the field to ensure not just the absence of bias, but a forward-looking approach to diversity and inclusion.
This is long-term work of personal, organizational, institutional and societal change. At PartnersGlobal, we are up to the challenge. We can imagine it. We will be a part of crafting that new story that starts within each of us, and then act to create that sense of shared purpose and public will for real institutional and structural change.
We hope you do too.
Justice is what love looks like in public… Dr. Cornel West