The Appalachia Service Project Board of Directors composed and passed the following statement at their summer Board meeting on June 5, 2020.
The senseless murder of George Floyd is the latest tragedy in the ongoing nightmare experienced by black men and women in our country. Today, ASP’s leadership stands with the black community in demanding systemic change. Black Lives Matter.
For the last 50 years, the work of Appalachia Service Project has centered on home repair, but the final goal has always been human dignity. Safe housing & home ownership have been our priority, but always with specific focus on the humanization that occurs when cultural, geographical, and socioeconomic distances are bridged. We are grounded in the principle that every human being is a sacred child of God, accepting people “right where they are and just the way they are.”
As many of us come to a fuller awareness of the racism our sisters and brothers have known in their bodies and souls every day of their lives, it is clear to us that acceptance and tolerance alone have never been enough to ensure human dignity. Black lives matter, and in order to say with integrity that we accept people right where they are and just the way they are, we recognize that we also need to say that some things are unacceptable.
We grieve the history of white indifference to the injustices lived by communities of color, and we lament our role as an organization in this reality. We have not spoken up often enough or loudly enough.
We believe this historic moment is a time to repent for the sins of the past and ask ourselves difficult questions about who we will be going forward, and how we will do things differently. This responsibility is particularly critical for a faith-based organization like ours, as Christ calls us to a costly love, one that bears the burdens of others, suffers with those who suffer, and demands “setting at liberty those who are oppressed.”
We are deeply grateful to those in the black community who have partnered with us as homeowners, volunteers, community advisors, staff persons, and board members over these many years, and we endeavor to both amplify those voices and add to their numbers. Without that diversity, our mission and our integrity are compromised. We acknowledge the profound legacy of minority communities throughout Central Appalachia, and we commit ourselves to leveraging our influence to make their voices heard.
We name, in a spirit of repentance, that this statement is eleven days late. In many ways, it is much later than that. The just and equitable treatment of black people and all persons of color honors the image of God present in every person. ASP has long sought for the transformation of everyone who comes into contact with this ministry, and that must begin with recognizing our own need to experience transformation.
To that end, in the coming days and weeks, the focus of our actions will be to acknowledge, listen, and seek out opportunities to learn. The ASP Staff and Strategic Planning Committee of the Board of Directors will actively review our programs to directly confront and address racial policies, including but not limited to volunteer recruitment, staff hiring, and training for volunteers, staff and homeowners. We will strive to both amplify regional voices of color on a regular basis as well as seek out guidance and further partnership with leaders of color in Central Appalachia. We encourage the ASP family to be active in every local community to advocate on behalf of persons of color, and to engage in the necessary dialogue that must take place across our nation. We have not joined our voices with the struggles of the black community as we should have, and that ends today.
Please see the first of many opportunities we will extend to the ASP Family, and beyond, to take action. Join the March for Justice, organized by Board Member, Reverend Dr. Brian Brown, of Woodlawn Faith UMC, in Alexandria, VA on Tuesday, June 9th. Details of their March can be found HERE as well as opportunities to give, if you cannot attend.