racial equity statement
Statement from the PLS Team, June 2020
No one can be a defender of human rights or a proponent of freedom while standing on the sidelines watching others fight for racial justice. It has always been time to be anti-racist, but the continued murders of Black people at the hands of police and armed vigilantes and the devasting impact of COVID-19 on Black and Brown communities serve as a strong reminder that now is an especially critical time for all of us to lend our voices, our resources, our leverage, our influence, and our hurt to join the fight for equality. We must propel forward and make this a definitive turning point in history.
We cannot limit the scope of our advocacy efforts to only police violence. Black and brown bodies bear the brunt of deep-seated racism and violence before, during, and after incarceration. Structural racism, unconscious bias, selective favoritism – racism, in all its forms, is a disease that relegates too many black and brown children to an existence of degradation, divestment, dehumanization, and death. The survivors, who are strong enough to tell their story and lead the movements and protests, are filled with pain. Many continue to fight anyway because there is no choice but to hope that this will soon end and that our children will be allowed to realize their dreams. We all pay for this cycle of trauma that we will pass on to yet another generation if we do not take this seriously.
We stand in solidarity with our clients, their families, and members of the Black and Brown communities who have taken to the streets to voice their anguish. We stand against police brutality in all forms. We stand against mass incarceration and a criminal legal system that disproportionately impacts Black and Brown people. As an organization, allyship with Black and Brown communities is not only a moral imperative but also a requirement of our agency’s mission. We challenge other agencies throughout Massachusetts to stand with us in solidarity and say: Black Lives Matter. Rise up! Speak out! Invest in the movement! And let’s follow the lead of those who are directly impacted. Center this moment in your life and in your work now and for as long as it takes to eradicate this disease, and please don’t watch from the sidelines.
Amplifying Black Voices
Statement from PLS Staff Attorney and Director of REICI
Malcolm X said, “Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.”
In 1968, cities across America burned to the ground in response to the assassination of Dr. King. Washington, Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago, Baltimore, and many more cities erupted in protest because, after generations of police violence, government-sanctioned terrorism, and the assassination of the one Black man calling for peace, Black people were tired. And today, fifty years after the assassination of Dr. King and as we marked the 99 year anniversary of the 1921 bombing of Black Wall Street, Dr. King’s fears are still alive, Black people are still tired and in many cases worse off.
We are tired of our children being funneled through the school-to-prison pipeline. We are tired of biases in the healthcare system that contributes to the many health inequities suffered by members of our community; this is why Black people are dying at significantly higher rates from COVID-19. We are tired of being over-policed and over-criminalized because of our very existence.
We are tired of being hashtags.
Rest in Peace #DavidMcAtee, #GeorgeFloyd, #AhmaudArbery, #BreonnaTaylor, #SeanReed, #StevenDemarcoTaylor, #ArianeMcCree, #BothamJean, #Eric Garner, #TerranceFranklin, #MilesHall, #RickyBall, #WilliamGreen, #SamuelDavidMallard, #SandraBland, #TrayvonMartin, #TamirRice, #OscarGrant, #JohnCrawford, #MichaelBrown, #PhilandoCastile, #AltonSterling, #Atatiana Jefferson, #TerenceCrutcher, #FreddieGray, #WalterScott, #SamuelDuBose, #SeanBell, #AmadouDiallo, #Laquan McDonald, and the countless others whose deaths didn’t garner national attention but nonetheless were lost.
“[When you] live in a world where there is this presumption of dangerousness and guilt wherever you go…When the burden is on you [as a Black person] to make the people around you see you as fully human and equal, you get exhausted.”- Bryan Stevenson
– LaToya Whiteside, Esq.,
Staff Attorney and Director of Race Equity in Corrections Initiative (REICI)