Anti-racism Statement from the Washington Peace Center
In community and solidarity from the board and staff
In 2014, the board and staff of the Washington Peace Center (WPC) developed a strategic plan for the next three years to continue to deepen our work and prioritize intentionally creating spaces for collaboration, reflection, and movement building.
One of the major focuses we identified for our future work was prioritizing our anti-racist commitment- renewing our engagement in the struggle for racial equity and justice; assessing our internal structure and programmatic work; and contributing to city-wide conversations on race.
Our decision to focus on anti-racism, racial justice and racial equity is based on the far reaching impact racism has. We recognize that racism is global in its reach and historical in its roots, impacting most, if not all, populations in different but interrelated ways. In this global and historic context, racism also plays out in particular ways in the United States, a settler colonial state that has depended on white supremacy to justify the genocide of Natives, the enslavement of Africans, and the continued denial of basic social and economic rights.
At the time we were formulating our strategic plan, we were witnessing the latest iterations of the struggle for Black Liberation following the killing of Michael Brown and the Ferguson uprising. We have also seen racism continue to impact communities on multiple fronts nationally including, but not limited to, police brutality against Black people; the Islamophobic War on Terror that has been devastating Black and Brown communities here and abroad; the War on Drugs, which has been labeled as the New Jim Crow; a lack of adequate immigration reform that has led to the deportation of millions; and the continued neglect of Indigenous populations and tribal sovereignty.
Locally activists have been highlighting police brutality with the campaign to ensure justice for Raphael Briscoe, Alonzo Smith, and most recently, Terrence Sterling. There is growing resistance to the massive displacement of African-American populations due to displacement and forced evictions as is happening in Barry Farm. We’re also seeing the way displacement is affecting Asian and African American communities at the Museum Square Apartments and Latin American communities throughout the city, particularly in Columbia Heights/Mt. Pleasant.
For these reasons and more, it is important for us to be clear about how we will operate in ways that contribute to collective liberation. Knowing that Black Liberation is essential to collective liberation, and that especially in DC, Black communities are facing a crisis, we want to make sure to center Black Liberation in our work. As the recently released Movement for Black Lives platform eloquently states: “We are a collective that centers and is rooted in Black communities, but we recognize we have a shared struggle with all oppressed people; collective liberation will be a product of all of our work." That is to say, locally the WPC wants to center Black Liberation in a way that invites the participation, experiences, and liberation of communities of color.
Since 2015, WPC has been focusing on a process to figure out exactly what our collective liberation commitment will look like. We established an anti-racism team to guide us. We spent time in our board and staff meetings reading about white supremacy culture and how it manifests organizationally. Next we hired a consulting team to work with us. The consultants conducted a survey of community members to learn what WPC is doing well and what we need to improve in order to help us identify major areas we can focus on as we implement principles and procedures to improve our organizational culture, programmatic work, and community relationships. We have held trainings and workshops meant to uplift anti-oppression work and the full extent of racial justice work. Topics have included “Not Your Mom's 101: Showing Up In Solidarity with Trans Communities;” “How To Talk About Islamophobia;” and “Disability Justice in Action: What Does Radical Access Look Like?” We also decided to shift our leadership model to one of co-directors to better reflect our vision of inclusive leadership.
As we embark on this latest chapter of WPC’s work, we want to make clear how serious we are about this collective liberation work. During this process, we have been challenged to reflect on our past organizational shortcomings as well as confront that we do not always live up to our commitment to be an anti-racist organization. We recognize we will continue to stumble as we progress, and we will be open to feedback and accountability as we move forward.
The following are tangible ways that we will continue our work with an anti-racism and racial justice lens in all parts of our programming, relationship building and leadership:
● Continue facilitating the DC Trainer's Network on topics and content that provide a deeper analysis and skills to address anti-racism, racial justice, and racial equity
● Launch and Co-host “Global 2 Local Connection” program with Many Languages, One Voice (MLOV), a quarterly political education, dialogue and praxis series starting on October 26th that will focus on connecting global movements to local organizing
● Continue producing and utilizing the Activist Alert to feature actions, events, and calls for solidarity that supports our community partners and leaders who amplify racial and social justice
● Further develop our new online/digital series, Critical Conversation, to feature activist and organizers in their work, impact, and healing/well-being while centering their perspective on racial and social justice
● Restructure our resources offered such as fiscal sponsorships, events equipment rental, and other resources to focus on collaborations and support partners with an anti-racist, anti-discrimination framework
● Uplift young activists and organizers in their development in anti-racism and racial justice work through our internship program and other leadership
● Continue participating in racial justice and equity conversations with others across DC and nationally
● Continue integrating accountability with our commitment through our anti-racism committee which will look to community partners and local leaders for feedback and assessment of our work
We will be holding a series of community meetings throughout the year and into 2017 to hear and engage with various activists, groups, and others across the city. We hope others committed to fighting racism will use this opportunity to meet us and share their work and what they envision the role of the WPC could or should be. We also hope to use these meetings to develop a lessons learned document that can be used by other organizations working in DC.
We thank our community partners, supporters and long-time leaders who have provided guidance and critical feedback throughout our anti-racism process as well as this statement.