When systems and communities orient around wellbeing, we create possibilities for lasting change for people and families. Our spring newsletter highlights partnerships that are supporting families in sustaining positive change, focusing on wellbeing to increase equity and justice, and bringing a wellbeing orientation directly to the community. Hear from partners about what this change looks like from the inside and what that means for families, meet talented artist and youth ambassador Trey from our community-based collaboration in St. Louis, and see how the FFI team is growing and changing!
I have been working in the anti domestic violence movement for over 20 years. I came to this work to support women and children who were experiencing domestic and sexual violence. As a young feminist, I held strong and unwavering beliefs about violence against women and girls. I was steadfast and thought I had it all figured out. Victims good, abusers bad. This binary shaped everything I thought and believed, as well as my actions. I had a zero tolerance approach and believed that the solution was simple. Help women and children leave the abusive relationship and start completely anew, and lock up the abuser. I believed that abusive behavior was explained simply and completely by a misuse of male privilege, power and control.
Twenty years later I take a deep breath and pause. And while I can love my former righteous advocate self, I have landed in a much more humble, very grey and very messy place. Hearts and minds need to grow and expand, and holding too tightly to dogma or what everyone else is thinking only keeps us from creating the change we desire.
The lived experience of those who have experienced violence is varied and diverse. The anti-violence movement, in many places, has remained steadfast, and even stuck, in a range of responses mostly designed to do what I originally got into this work to do—help survivors leave their partners, and often their communities, neighborhoods, jobs and more as a consequence. For some this is indeed the best option, but for most the right solution is more complex. The articulated values of the movement have always been to work with survivors no matter what they choose; however, we have not organized our work with real options that support all survivors’ desires and fully live up to these values.
One memorable woman (I’ll call her Kate) I worked with in supervised visitation was instrumental in opening up my thinking. Supervised visitation is a service generally for separated parents that allows the children to spend time with a parent who has caused harm to the family. It’s important to note the underlying assumption here is that parents using visitation programs are no longer in contact, and want it that way. Kate and her family had been coming to the center for months, and it seemed clear both Kate and her children were keeping a secret or had something to say but never did. I tried everything to build a relationship and understand what was happening for them, to no avail. Until one day, Kate walked into my office, sat down and started to cry. Kate explained that she and her family, including her abusive husband, were still living together. She described how she maneuvered before every visit—dropping him off, driving around for 15 minutes, then dropping off the kids—and reversing the order at the end of the visit. When I asked what she needed from us, she begged me to not kick them out, that she needed to continue the supervised visits. She told me she wasn’t ready and didn’t want to leave her husband. But the 90 minutes of respite she got every week—to take care of herself, to prepare for the week, to not worry—was the most helpful thing anyone was doing for her and critical for her safety.
This was a pivotal moment for me. First, I realized that because Kate felt afraid to tell me the truth, we spent a lot of time planning for safety risks that were not relevant and we missed opportunities to plan around her actual needs. Second, I realized that when we only see our responses or interventions through our own lens, we miss the practical and helpful ways we can support survivors on their own terms, in the ways that are most relevant to their lived experience. Lastly, and most importantly, I was reminded that our “leaving” strategies can be supportive to survivors even when they choose to stay and our most critical role is to build trust and stay open to what people actually need, not just what we think they need.
I ask myself daily some of the following questions in an effort to uncover the path needed to transform and unite the many movements working to create change and healing for individuals and families who are touched, harmed and impacted by the many forms of violence that plague our homes, communities and planet. What if the horizon we set for our movement(s) was created by a desire for healing for individuals and families? What if we really organized our work around the multitude of options that survivors want and need to feel supported? What if we considered the possibility that an approach to supporting change for those impacted by violence (both the person being harmed and the once causing it) was driven by our deep curiosity to understand what people need to feel a sense of hope and connection?
Changing the horizon to healing can change the myth that violence and relationships cleanly benefit one person while harming another; it could open up the possibility for us to understand that when violence is happening, everyone is being harmed. The harm may not be experienced similarly, but no one truly thrives when they are harming the people they care about. If we, meaning all of us working to support safety and wellbeing in our communities, held the same vision for healing, our movement would be stronger—and continue to grow and move.
As my many mentors have invited me to grow and change, my invitation to each of you working to create change and healing is to find a place in your heart and in your actions that leaves room for new and innovative ways to inform and influence our antiviolence movement. I invite those of us who have been engaged in this work for many years to listen to the new voices, to encourage and support ways of thinking that may be different or even the opposite of what we have believed over the years, find ways to hold space for new leaders who will carry the work. I invite new and exciting thinkers to be fierce, carve new paths and hold humility and gratitude for the work that has come before you. This is an urgent call to all of us. We must open our hearts and our minds to seeing all people as whole people—not just the experiences they’ve had but as people deserving a world that is built from a place of equity, compassion and genuine opportunities to choose love over hate, kindness over cruelty and healing over suffering.
Jennifer Rose has been working as an advocate and activist to end violence against women and children for the past 20 years. She currently works locally and nationally as a consultant on violence against women and girls, supervised visitation and safe exchange, engaging men who use violence, oppression, community organizing and LGBTQ issues.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, nearly 200 people packed an auditorium at Simmons College School of Social Work for a special event last week to launch the 3rd edition of their free online domestic violence training course. FFI’s Anna Melbin participated in a panel with other leaders in the Massachusetts domestic violence field, who were each asked to share their unique perspective on the past, present and future of the field. Anna talked about FFI’s work to increase access to wellbeing for people who experience violence, and specifically about our multi-year project in California that was focused on understanding how people who experience violence define success for themselves in their lives. The project illustrates what she’s believed since she started work in the DV field: that people—whether using or victimized by violence—are more the same than different and wellbeing, not just safety, is the key to long-term healing and hope. Anna pointed out that the mainstream DV field has historically shied away from work to truly understand what is driving violent behavior and the contexts in which it occurs, fearing that it could be perceived as excusing violence and not prioritizing accountability. Looking ahead to the future of the field, she called for change: “We’re not well practiced in holding the gray areas, and it’s limited our field of vision and possibilities for change. I believe that we’re well past due to interrupt this historical perspective; if we don’t, cycles of violence will continue, deepening the divide and the oppression and marginalization of the most vulnerable.”
People died in Charlottesville this past weekend. Families are planning funerals, not summer barbeques. Many more are holding vigils for those hospitalized in critical condition.
Let’s call it what it is.
White supremacy. Domestic terrorism. Pre-meditated hate.
It’s shameful. Excruciating. More or less shocking, depending on the frequency of oppressions any one of us endures.
What would have happened if an Ohio man hadn’t weaponized a car? Heather Heyer would be alive, and many more would not be hospitalized.
And I wonder if everything else in Charlottesville in the last 24 hours would have sparked outrage. Would a Twitter rainbow have coalesced as it did last night?
I want to believe it would have. And the evidence suggests the opposite.
Beyond the 20 year-old driver who murdered a woman standing up for America— older, cannier, no-hoods-needed-anymore white supremacists know how to dog whistle to the country without provoking the bipartisan (sans presidential) rebukes now pouring in. White supremacists know how to make complicity into Velcro. Their walk-the-line, silencing assaults hit their intended targets—blacks, Latinos, Jews and others—daily. They are insidious and corrosive. They are crystal clear.
So let’s also be crystal clear.
Oppression makes it impossible for people to access the ingredients of health and hope. Cells age faster. Immune systems go haywire. Constant stress distorts metabolism. People die years early from oppression. It doesn’t always take a weaponized car. Oppression is deadly.
We need to create the country that has been dreamed of, but never been reality. One where what is essential for health and hope is not miserly hoarded by some to hurt others, but instead where oppression is replaced by wellbeing and justice.
We have a long way to go. As a white middle-class woman, I have a long way to go. And none of us will get there if we respond episodically to the horrors of a murder and not constantly to the pervasive horrors of intimidation and racism.
Let’s get going. Now and every day.
Katya Fels Smyth and the FFI team
On the 4th of July this year the United States celebrated its 241st year of independence from the British Commonwealth. For some communities in the United States this “birthday” celebration is an annual (sometimes painful) reminder that people have been resisting subjugation and fighting for freedom since colonizers arrived in the Americas. Independence Day in the United States is also a reminder to some individuals that there is a profound difference between the ideals of freedom and equity, which are central components of the American Dream, and their lived experience.
The Ford Foundation has been “talking and thinking a lot about how inequality affects our ability to achieve the fabled American Dream: the idea that if you work hard and play by the rules then you should be able to get ahead.” The American Dream is a fable for some populations of people in the United States, particularly Native Americans and Black people, because no amount of hard work has ever been enough and the rules for upward mobility have changed constantly. In effort to “jump-start honest discussions about the role of inequality and opportunity in our lives,” the Ford Foundation, in partnership with Moving Up, developed a “tool that aims to help us examine the many experiences, systems, and institutions that have helped—or hindered—our path to where we are today.” Moving Up is an initiative “based on the premise that if we want to engage people on the issues like poverty, inequality and opportunity, then we must find new ways to bring them into the conversation.” Based on a series of questions about who you are, your parents, where you grew up, your childhood, your health, your education, your luck, your friends, your use and access to public services, your character and your effort, the tool, a calculator of the aforementioned factors, produces an American Dream Score.
My American Dream Score is 74/100. The message with my score stated that, “while hard work contributes to success, each of us have encountered different people, experiences, systems, and services that have helped or hindered our efforts. Your score of 74 means you’ve had some factors working for you, but more that you’ve had to work to overcome.” As for how my score compared to the range of scores, a score of 53 or less means that “nearly every factor has been working in your favor. If your score is 54-65 then the majority of factors have been in your favor. If your score is 66-79 then you’ve had more working against you than for you. If your score is 80 or higher then almost every factor has been working against you.”
The tool identified factors that helped me “move up,” including that I was “able to tap into a strong social network, grew up in place great for raising kids;” had “access to a good education;” was “bless[ed] by some good fortune;” and “benefited from public goods and services.” I have a lot of questions about the evidence and validity of the algorithm the tool is predicated on. Despite my questions, one of the factors in the calculation, “where you grew up,” included reference to research by Raj Chetty and his Equality of Opportunity Project. This factor is of particular interest to me as a student of the relationship between physical space and power. Chetty “has identified five factors that are correlated to neighborhoods that promote upward mobility: two parent households, good schools, high social capital, and low segregation and inequity.” Patriots fighting in the American War of Independence understood that freedom is linked to land. That link has not changed, which is why neighborhood (i.e., residential location) matters. In a blog I wrote earlier this year, Marching Peacefully Towards Being More Separate and More Unequal?, I discusses the importance of understanding how individual decisions about residential location affects inequality.
The tool also identified the factors I worked to overcome as: “the economy wasn’t as strong when you entered the job market, needed to develop strong character traits to cope, your parents may have struggled to give you all you needed, had to deal with some tough things as a kid, experienced some health issues, had to work harder than most, some may have held your race against you, you were more likely to be discriminated against based on gender.” The authors state that the calculator does not weigh any one factor more than the other and argue that “while research generally shows that some factors correlate more to success than others, that doesn’t mean they were more important to you personally.” While there are likely others, a critical factor not accounted for in the calculation is the ability for one to be able to be one’s authentic self as a (im)mobility factor. Equity cannot be achieved without inclusivity; inclusivity cannot be achieved without authenticity. Being able to be one’s authentic self is not a factor one can work to overcome. What one often does is suppress their authentic self after considering the tradeoffs (i.e. weighing the cost and benefits) of being one’s authentic self. I am constantly making decisions about where and how to show up in places and spaces. Sometimes I choose to show up just as Dr. Green, which pays into the politic of credential capital, and sometimes I show up as La Tonya, which to some immediately signals that I am a Black woman possibly with a certain political leaning. While this suppression of authentic self is probably not a mental or spiritual tax individuals in the dominant culture and/or in certain contexts pay, suppressing my authentic self is a strategy I employ often as I try determine how to live free; being upwardly mobile and pursuing the American Dream is a luxury until equity is achieved.
Advancing equity requires understanding how power is distributed and maintained; it also requires addressing the impact of power inequities. Equity is one part of economic, political, racial, and social justice. The United States has never had equity and we do not have a shared vision of concrete outcomes. In order to create a shared vision we must be willing to talk openly not only about race–including having honest dialogue about attitudes, culture, false and singular narratives, policies, practices, and procedures that reinforce differential outcomes or fail to eliminate them–but also how all individuals can participate and prosper in this country to the best of their ability regardless of ability, economic class, geographic location, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Advancing equity is not a destination, a fable, or a dream. We can create a fair inclusion country, and world, where we can truly live our dreams. In order to build that society, we must be willing to both share our individual and collective stories authentically and to listen deeply to each other’s individual and collective stories without gaslighting, the doubting or questioning of one’s experience, memory, or perception. If you are uncertain exactly where to begin, begin with the Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America website; you can utilize the tool, post your score, share your story, and read other people’s story. Utilizing our individual American Dream Score could be a provocative (or safe) jumping-off point or subject matter to continue to have honest conversations about the role of inequality and opportunity in our lives and communities.
La Tonya Green, PhD is FFI’s Director of Evidence and Knowledge. She is responsible for generating knowledge and evidence about the applicability and effectiveness of the Full Frame Approach and the Five Domains of Wellbeing. La Tonya is heading up FFI’s race and equity initiatives.
On Saturday, January 21st several FFI staff members participated in the Women’s March in Washington, DC and in sister marches in Boston and Greenfield, Massachusetts and in New York City. The pictures and reflections posted on FFI’s Twitter and Facebook page are testimony of the multitude of reasons people marched that day, including for the rights of undocumented immigrants, for the rights of individuals with a disability, and for the right to have control over our own body. I was in New York City with hundreds of thousands of people who were marching, standing, and dancing together for equality and freedom as we made our way west on 42nd Street and north on 5th Ave or through adjacent side streets and avenues when that crowd was too robust to move. While we were a part of the millions of people around the world who marched for a myriad reasons that day, the future of our democracy is not teetering on whether or not we all show up when it is time to march for change in public policy. Our democracy depends on our willingness to pay attention to and not be agnostic about how our individual decisions can affect the wellbeing of others. Colloquially, wellbeing is often described as what can occur after one has moved through the hierarchy of needs—physiological, safety, belonging/love, esteem, and self-actualization—psychologist Abraham Maslow identified. Wellbeing, however, is not achieved when one is able to maintain a state of self-actualization nor is it a destination point. It is a state of being that requires the weighing of assets and consideration of tradeoffs. Our collective wellbeing depends on the decisions we make as individuals as we weigh assets and tradeoffs.
The Sunday before the Women’s March, on January 15th, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 88 years old if he were alive. Would he think the marches would result in meaningful positive change for the marginalized? What assets and tradeoffs would he argue need to be weighed? Would he be skeptical? The August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom he helped lead included a “What We Demand” statement with ten points including “comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation from the present Congress—without compromise or filibuster—to guarantee all Americans access to all public accommodations, decent housing, adequate and integrated education, and the right to vote.” The March resulted in increased momentum for the civil rights movement, which resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. While it is too early to know what the Women’s marches will produce, what I do know is that despite federal legislation and resources, we are still fighting—over 50 years later—for many of the demands from the March on Washington to be met. Although according to the University of California, Los Angeles’ Civil Rights Project’s 2014 report Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future that “there has not been a major national study on school segregation, its costs, and solutions for almost 50 years, since the 1967 report requested by President Johnson, Racial Isolation in the Public Schools,” it has been argued that schools in the United States were more racially segregated in 2015 than they were in the 1960s. Civil rights legislation was signed 10 years after the US Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka. Brown vs. The Board of Education overturned the 1896 US Supreme Court decision in the Homer A. Plessy v. John H. Ferguson case, which upheld state racial segregation laws (e.g., Jim Crow Laws) of public systems including education and transportation. Racial segregation under the ideology of “separate but equal” systems was standard doctrine in laws across the US until the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision. In addition to the consequences of legally sanctioned racial segregation, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, in the The New York Times Magazine article, “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City,” details how individual decisions made by well-meaning individuals about where to live and which school to send their child to can affect other students’ and families’ access to opportunity and various forms of capital—including credential, cultural, and social. Because of individual decisions that uphold unjust systems, coupled with other mechanisms such as discriminatory employment and housing policies and practices, some schools in the US are more racially and economically isolated than they were when the marchers demanded the “desegregation of all school districts in 1963.” More specifically, in the interview “How The Systemic Segregation Of Schools Is Maintained By ‘Individual Choices’,” on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air, Hannah-Jones argues that individuals can make good decisions for their children and other people’s children too. Making those decisions requires weighing assets and tradeoffs, which can cause tension when trying to reconcile one’s beliefs and values with one’s actions. Being willfully blind to the collective results of our individual decisions does not invalidate school demographic data that reveals that we are making decisions based not only on what we desire for our own children but also based on our beliefs about other people and their children. We are making decisions that secure or maintain advantage for our own child while ignoring or being indifferent about systems that are unjust for other people’s children. No matter what the circumstances, we all want the same thing—wellbeing for ourselves and for those we care about. The harsh reality, however, is we are maintaining a country that is not only segregated educationally but also racially, economically, politically, residentially, and socially. Being civically engaged is not the same as resisting nor is resisting the same as offering alternatives to systems that value the wellbeing of one group at the expense of another. In “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” Dr. King wrote: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” In short, even the most social justice-minded individuals might be making decisions that are contributing to the country being more separate and more inequitable.
In a recent letter to allies, “Increasing Access to Wellbeing in Small Spaces and Interactions,” Katya Fels Smyth, FFI’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer, reflecting on the legacy of Dr. King on his national holiday, wrote about the ways she can increase access to wellbeing for others in her day to day interactions. Our collective right to wellbeing is dependent upon us not only resisting the policies, procedures, practices, and norms that do not uphold and/or that undermine the mandates of the Constitution, but it is also dependent upon our commitment to making individual decisions and taking deliberate actions that increase access to wellbeing for some of the individuals and groups of people we marched as a member of or in solidarity with. We cannot wait. We must act with urgency and have the moral fortitude to not only speak truth to power while we march but also while we make individual decisions. Onward?
La Tonya Green, PhD is FFI’s Director of Evidence and Knowledge. She is responsible for generating knowledge and evidence about the applicability and effectiveness of the Full Frame Approach and the Five Domains of Wellbeing.
For me and perhaps for you, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was particularly relevant, resonant and poignant this year. In the face of forces and messages that can erode people’s access to wellbeing, we’re all called on to take peaceful action to hold the line. Many of us are joining larger conversations, groups, events and public statements, and there is an energy around many of these that is positive and infectious. Some of us are reclaiming our activist voices, and others, like my kids, are just discovering theirs for the first time. I find myself newly hopeful but (I think) not naive.
Yesterday, as news of activist voices in protests, counter-protests and marches dominated, I took a moment to reflect on where so much of access to wellbeing is enhanced or blocked: in seemingly small, invisible actions that are important and meaningful that have nothing to do with political party or polarities.
As an imperfect person, some of these are harder for me to do consistently than I like to admit, which is exactly why I need to engage in them: I need to own where my deep, fierce commitment to access to wellbeing isn’t always matching up to my actions. Hard work. I’d love your company.
So here are my first two commitments for January:
1) Have a conversation with someone who sees the world very differently from how I see it, do less than half the talking, and really listen for how that person’s perspective makes sense even if I disagree.
Why this increases access to wellbeing: Our drive for social connectedness to others is strong, as is our related need to feel we belong. But this drive can create echo-chambers and bubbles, and that fuels division.
2) In settings and situations where I feel safe as a straight, white, middle-class woman, taking a moment to try to identify whether there are things occurring that might make someone else feel less safe, and remedying those as much as possible, even if that pushes me to be less comfortable.
Why this increases access to wellbeing: Safety is a combination of external situations and our personal perspectives and histories. What is safe for one person many not feel or be safe for another person.
The response to my earlier post, Why It’s Time for a National Right to Wellbeing, was inspiring and galvanizing, and reaffirmed FFI’s deep belief that it is, indeed, the time for a right to wellbeing. So I invite you to join me in taking your own first steps in the small spaces of individual interactions in addition to whatever actions you’re taking in a larger sphere. FFI is working on simple ways to collect and disseminate actions people across the country are taking to build access to wellbeing; in the meantime, please feel free to share by email, Twitter (tag @FullFrameInitv and we’ll retweet it!) or on Facebook (@FullFrameInitiative).
You can also help seed a national right to wellbeing movement by sharing Why It’s Time for a National Right to Wellbeing with your friends, colleagues, allies, and those with whom you disagree, too. And please share with me resonant posts, organizations and work.
FFI is pivoting quickly to steer into this work more intentionally and explicitly. We all need to keep calling for change, and being the change we want to make in this world.
I look forward to hearing from you again.
The presidential election surfaced fissures that carve deep into the ideal of a common identity of America.
We at FFI are chilled, frustrated and outraged by the illumination of hate and base instincts of division and intimidation, and we are scared for and with each other and all the people across our country who are less safe than they were two weeks ago. We stand in solidarity with the many people writing and speaking about these real fears.
We are committed to being part of not just something that restores, but a movement that actually moves us all forward.
And we believe that an essential piece of the puzzle is wellbeing: a set of core needs and experiences we universally seek, in combination, and that we universally need for health and hope.
We all seek to be in relationships where we get and give value, to feel a sense of belonging to things bigger than we are; we need to know that core parts of our identity don’t expose us to danger or hatred; we need to know there are rhythms in our days and stability we can count on; we need to see that our actions and our work matter: that we have impact and can shape our future, our relationships, our environment; we need to be able to meet our and our children’s needs for food, clothing, shelter, school, health care, and more without shame or danger. And we all seek progress for ourselves and our loved ones, but in ways that don’t create havoc in other parts of our life.
These universal needs bind us all. Far from a nice extra, wellbeing is vital.
What the election surfaced is that across the country, and far more pervasively than many otherwise knew, people feel their wellbeing is thwarted and threatened. One possible response is to keep turning on each other and on the systems and institutions that should protect us, but that so many Americans no longer trust.
FFI rejects this, and we believe that many of you do, too. It’s a zero sum game if one person’s wellbeing is only increased when someone else’s is diminished.
The other possibility is actually a responsibility.
We all have a responsibility to steer into the magnificent and sometimes disquieting truth that we are more alike than we are different—not to excuse hate, vengeance, intimidation and oppression, but instead to address it head on and disarm it. To see each other in the full frame of our lives and align our interactions, practices, policies and institutions with what is required to provide equitable access to wellbeing. To create a space where one person’s wellbeing enhances another’s—not a zero sum game, but an exponentially more powerful and positive one. To leverage this moment not to get us back to where we were two weeks ago, but to really increase access for everyone, particularly those who grapple with poverty, violence, trauma and oppression.
FFI’s purpose is more relevant than ever. We will continue to support change that brings a wellbeing orientation to organizations, systems and communities, and we will accelerate our work to, in coalition and collaboration, assert a national right to wellbeing.
We cannot and must not do this alone. If you believe that we all have a right to wellbeing, please be in touch as we, together, shape a bright, urgently needed way forward.
Tuesday afternoon, FFI signed off on our quarterly newsletter, and tee-d it up for an e-blast on Wednesday. And as it landed in people’s inboxes, video of Alton Sterling’s killing was going viral. And then, moments later it seemed, the surreal narration of Philando Castile’s killing amplified the horror. I am sickened, and I haven’t slept or concentrated well this week.
Only weeks ago, I wasn’t sleeping because there were more killings, these in Orlando. And while I wasn’t sleeping, I wrote the lead letter for our newsletter, the one that went out earlier this week. That letter was tied to a particular moment, and yet because I haven’t written letters for our newsletter about massacres in Charleston or the steady roll of thunder that is the violence gripping Chicago or the heroin epidemic in Baltimore or Appalachia, or the disparate length of time required to vote depending on what jurisdiction you’re in, or kidnapped girls in Nigeria, or any in the rain of inequity and violence, my representation of FFI’s attention and caring did not accurately reflect who we are or what we believe. That letter could be read as silent on acts of disappearing people beyond Orlando, including the extraordinary, corrosive, seemingly unending violence against blacks by some in law enforcement. And now I, like many of us, am sickened by the killing of law enforcement officers in Dallas and the reality that, for generations, violence has begot violence has begot violence and I’m afraid to see what the news will bring today or tonight.
Hopelessness and fatalism are deeply seductive, and it is tempting to go silent, and to fall into the privilege of not having to watch or see or speak. Yet the rain of horrors nationally, internationally is torrential. We at FFI have been talking deeply about these issues, and will continue to wrestle with our organizational response to them individually and collectively. And we will, so that timing issues which lead us to stand in solidarity in newsletters and elsewhere aren’t perceived externally (or internally) as an implicit organizational pecking order of atrocities. This isn’t to diminish Orlando, but it is to acknowledge that as we find our public voice, the perils of seeming silent—being silent—are real.