Juneteenth 2020: COVID-19, Racial Equity, and Our Mission

The following blog text is an open letter from SOME President and CEO, Ralph Boyd, to the SOME Community


To Our Beloved SOME Community:

Juneteenth commemorates the official end of slavery on June 19, 1865, the day when the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation, made 3 years earlier, became more real for slaves and former slaves in America. As recent events underscore, though, more than a century and a half later, we continue to struggle—as communities and as a Nation—with inequality and inequity, twin vestiges of slavery, and legacies of segregation, both de jure and de facto.

However, as you know, I prefer to see opportunity in all things, especially crisis, whether it involves public health, social justice and equity, or economic dislocation, all of which are part of our present experience. This year’s Juneteenth, in my mind, is well timed and affords us a special opportunity for reflection, introspection, appreciation, and recognition.

I hope that each of us will take some portion of the day to consider where we are as individuals and as a Nation, acknowledging and appreciating our blessings, but also recognizing with candor and honesty our challenges, including and especially the delta between where we are as a society with respect to our “fairness quotient,” and where we aspire to be (actually, where we should be). The fact that this gap has persisted since the first Juneteenth frustrates us, but in that frustration lies our calling, especially here at SOME.

We know, through experience and research, that diversity matters. Meaningfully diverse and inclusive organizations simply perform better than those that are not (see, for example, this article from Urbanland on the business case for DEI). The different backgrounds, life experiences, thinking styles, and perspectives we bring to our work make us better in all ways that matter, whether we’re assessing how well we deliver our mission, our operating efficiency, or our financial performance. Being diverse and inclusive makes us better; it is as simple and straightforward as that.

Finally, it feels as though we are at a significant inflection point in our history, at least our recent history. Inflection points direct us towards opportunity. The concentrated attention our fellow citizens are now giving to the twin crisis of COVID-19 and social injustice, and the disparate impact these contagions have on people of color specifically, and vulnerable people more broadly, presents us with opportunities to learn ourselves, to educate and inform others, to advocate for fair, constructive (and productive) change, and to take responsible and sensible actions that common sense and sound research indicate will make a positive difference.

We should not miss the opportunities we have to help change the lives and fortunes of people and communities of color, as well as people in need, whatever their origin or hue. As I said in an earlier message about the current crisis, at SOME we have a special privilege and calling,

“a mission to serve and transform people, families, and vulnerable communities, to move them from a place of insufficiency and need, to sufficiency and eventual prosperity” material, emotional and spiritual.

Ultimately, this is what justice, equality, and fairness should look like. We can paint that mural through our work, and by executing our mission, literally every day. That is our calling and our privilege. Juneteenth reminds us of this, and illuminates the impact and value of what we—and our partners and fellow stakeholders—can accomplish on behalf of a grateful people and a blessed Nation.

With deep respect and abundant blessings,

Ralph Boyd
President & CEO