In 1963, during what is arguably his most well-known speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. imagined a time when Blacks in America would be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. The events of the past days in this country have many of us, again, examining the issue of content of character, but not of any individual – of our nation.
Here we stand together, more than half a century later, witnessing the same acts of violence and murder, watching the same riots that emerge as a response, and seeing some of the same refusals to condemn and judge the acts of those that flagrantly disregard human life and decency.
We know that all of you, across all of the communities we touch, are grappling with the emotional sorrow and pain of the events that have transpired in our nation over the past week – particularly as they layer additional trauma onto that already being felt by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The horrific acts of indignity, violence, and murder are now burned into our collective memory. Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Christian Cooper – these are the names we know because the media has brought them our attention. Yet, there are countless more nameless and voiceless individuals who have, no doubt, suffered similar fates as a result of the ongoing and incessant systemic racism in our country. We stand with all of you in support of their families and in opposition to those forces that have brought about this reality.
That said, we must understand that these circumstances are only the symptoms of much deeper issues that we must acknowledge and address in our nation. In one of Dr. King’s earlier speeches, “Other America,” he posited that there exist two states of being in our country, two Americas. In one America, millions of people experience every day the opportunity of having life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all of their dimensions. King explains that the other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms hope into despair. “They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
The events of Dr. King’s time and of this moment in which we now find ourselves are, in essence, a collision of these two worlds. As many individuals and organizations now seek ways to address and combat the systemic issues that feed this untenable dynamic, Forward Cities has only to look to its existing and continuing mission. Our work is rooted in catalyzing economic equity as a means to balance the scales between these two ‘Americas’ by increasing economic independence and social justice through entrepreneurship and self-determination. We will continue to equip local communities and leaders with the capacity they need to identify, understand, and collectively address barriers to equitable entrepreneurship. We will continue to advocate for a shared prosperity that fuels opportunity and hope. We will continue to help you build a new America that is healthy, peaceful, and safe for all. We invite you to join us as partners, collaborators, and allies.
The Forward Cities Team