Breonna, an EMT working on the front lines of the coronavirus epidemic, an aspiring nurse, was asleep in her apartment when she was killed by police this March. Friday, June 5, 2020, would have been her 27th birthday.
We say her name today.
We are heartbroken at the racial violence and oppression that she, Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others have experienced in this country. Our hearts are with them and their families.
We condemn racism and police brutality and demand those responsible for their murders to be held accountable.
We have struggled to find the words to explain our outrage and pain over the incalculable harm that people of color in this country have suffered due to deep-seated, systemic racism. Words alone do not suffice; we must speak with action.
As Opal Tometi, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, said, “If things aren’t working for us, it is our duty to rise up.”
We stand with our black friends, participants, partners, and supporters. We stand in solidarity with people of color and allies in our community and all across the nation who are saying enough is enough; our communities, and country needs to change.
At Vermont Works for Women, we work toward the day when women and girls make confident, deliberate choices about life and work that reflect an expansive grasp of the world’s possibilities, a fearless commitment to pursuing their dreams and that contribute to the vitality of our communities.
But our vision for the lives of all women and girls in Vermont cannot be achieved without first addressing and condemning systemic economic racism which has robbed women of color. Robbed them of their right to equal opportunity, equal pay, financial independence, and safety in the workplace, and created barriers to employment through the intersectionality of gender and racial bias and discrimination.
We recognize that the systems of oppression that silence women’s voices have worked even more to oppress and silence black voices. Furthermore, we recognize and fight against the dual and unique oppression of racism and sexism that black women face every day of their lives.
The work ahead of us is in our name, Vermont Works For Women.
Vermont needs to work for ALL women. For decades, VWW has sought equity and economic justice for Vermont women of all races, classes, sexual orientations, and abilities, but we still have so much work to do.
More than 25% of black women in Vermont live in poverty, higher than the national average and the percentage of white women in Vermont (12.3%).
Black women, holding 13.6% of jobs in the accommodation and food service industries (often low wage, tipped jobs), experience higher levels of sexual harassment, filing 31.4% of charges with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission between 2012 - 2015.
Black women earn .62 cents, Native American women earn .58 cents, and Latinx women earn .54 cents to the dollar that white men earn for equal work.
Black women carry the highest level of college debt - $8,700 more than white women.
We must all recognize what the statistics in Change The Story’s 2019 report: Women, Work, and Wages in Vermont represents systemic inequality that calls for systems change. We vow to be a part of that change and demonstrate our commitment to increased intentionality for racial justice, through words and actions.
We must and will do more.
We re-commit ourselves to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to doing the work required to dismantle structural, systemic racism and oppression. Our feminism is, and will continue to be intersectional.
We commit to hiring staff and working hand-in-hand with a board of directors that is representative of the women and the communities we serve and supporting diverse leadership at the local and state levels. Representation matters.
We commit to strengthening existing partnerships with Vermont racial justice advocates and organizations, including Spectrum VT Multicultural Youth Program and the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, and pursuing new partnerships, using our platform to elevate their voices and support their work.
We commit to working with our board and staff to examine our own policies, procedures, programming, direct services, and organizational culture to ensure they reflect our commitment to racial justice.
We commit to being a staunch advocate for changes that will shift structures and policies toward gender equity and economic justice for all at the state and local levels, using our privilege and resources to discuss and enact real change on gender and racial injustice in Vermont.
We commit today, tomorrow and in the days to come, to continually listen, learn, and stand up for justice for ALL women and girls.
To those in pain in our community, we hear you. We grieve with you. We value you. We fight with you.