Last week, one of my colleagues here at Polk Bros. Foundation asked us to take a “moment of quiet” together. So, in our separate living rooms and basements, where we have been fortunate to set up our remote workspaces, we paused. And thought about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. We thought, too, about Laquan McDonald, Rekia Boyd, Harith Augustus and the so many, too many others whose lives and memories are now forever entwined in moments of violence and racism.
The injustice that Black people are forced to endure across the country – and which we see far too frequently in our own city – feels impossible to bear, especially months into a pandemic that’s disproportionately claiming lives and livelihoods in communities of color.
For more than 30 years, Polk Bros. Foundation has been committed to addressing poverty and inequity in Chicago. That commitment continues, fully. But a painful thought emerged in that moment of quiet: We have not done nearly enough. Not as a country. Not as a city. Not as a foundation.
We continue to find immense hope in the way our grantee partners are responding to Chicagoans’ basic needs and pursuing structural reforms. Through this work, we see lives improved every day. Yet we are deeply frustrated and disturbed by the intractability of dangerously unjust systems that surround this work and leave our city deeply flawed.
Yesterday’s normal, pre-pandemic, is not something to long for.
Severe racial disparities permeate health, wealth, education, employment, community and personal safety, and so many other critical aspects of everyday life. As protestors take to the streets across our city, around our country and all over the globe to demand justice, we must remember how we arrived in this moment and do all we can to push toward real change for our city. The path forward is not all clear, but it’s a path we must take.
Chicago, we love you. We stand with you. And with you, we are committed.
Yours in partnership,
Gillian Darlow, CEO
Polk Bros. Foundation