Time is now for community leaders to step up and fight systemic racism

Posted 16 June 2020 at 5:02 pm


Photo by Tom Rivers: About 75 attended a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Albion on June 6.

I was so proud of my community on Saturday, June 6, when I drove through town and witnessed a diverse group of people standing for Black Lives Matter on Main Street.

I just happened to be in town and was lucky enough to witness this diverse group of people standing up for what is right. I honked in support and got teary eyed. Thank you to all of you who participated.

I support Black Lives Matter, because we live in a society that acts as if they do not. This movement is not saying that other lives do not matter, or that black lives matter more. The movement is asking us to see that black lives matter. They matter.

I tracked down someone in the protest and participated with a group in Kendall on the corner of Route 18 and Kendall Road this past Saturday, June 13th. Just as the article about the previous week mentioned honks of support. It was heartwarming the number of honks and thumbs up we received.

I read a beautiful article in the Hub, with Holley and Kendall school superintendents joining Monroe County school leaders in denouncing racism. The superintendents signed a pledge, both Holley and Kendall School Districts are joining Monroe County school districts in a six-point pledge to address systemic racism in our schools. Thank you, Holley and Kendall school districts. Albion, Medina, Lyndonville Central School Districts, where are you? We need you; our children need you.

Many County Cooperative Extension offices are posting statements in line with the statewide Cooperative Extension office. I found solid statements of support from Genesee and Niagara County CCE offices, nothing on the Orleans County CCE website. Orleans County CCE, where are you? Our community needs you.

Racism robs all of us in so many ways. This is an incredible moment in our nation’s history. We all have the opportunity to engage in supporting meaningful change. The protests are step one. After years of community activism, there is a moment when protests bring about legislative change. Now comes the real work of change. Our schools, law enforcement, government, medical providers all need change. Systemic racism permeates all of our institutions.

I am filled with hope. Those of us who stand up, and those of us who honk are collectively so much more diverse than we were in the 1960’s. All dimensions of difference matter, and race is our root. The real work lies ahead. Moving from protest to actions is about committee work. Diverse members of our community sitting together in each of our different institutions identifying barriers and planning change.

I believe we can do it, and am asking that the leaders across our county stand up to this moment, and engage. It is time to create real committees/work groups to address the issues of disparity. There are so many tools at our disposal. There are amazing projects around the country that we can use to inform our efforts.

Thank you.

Betty García Mathewson