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We must work to change the system

Alex Hillman News Item

Alex Hillman

6 minute read

I sent this the following email to the Indy Hall community this morning. It is not perfect, but it is sincere.

In the hopes that it might help others, I’ve decided to share it. ❤️

For the last several days I’ve been unsure what to write, or even if I should, but silence is in part how we got here. So I will speak only for myself, but hopefully, with thoughts and feelings and actions that others in our community share in solidarity.

Ahead of everything else, I want to acknowledge and address the pain and sadness and anger that many people are feeling, not just over the last week but for much much longer. I see that you are hurt and angry, and I’m here for you.

More than anything, I’m listening and prepared to help.

I’ll echo something that I shared early in the pandemic that informed our choice to temporarily close our coworking space even before it was mandated:

Buildings and businesses can be rebuilt. Human lives cannot.

For white people like me, the damage on the streets hurts in part because it feels “close to home.” It feels like something we solve quickly, by assisting with cleanup or contributing to a business recovery fund.

But for Black people in our community, “close to home” is a clip showing a person who looks like them (or their parent or sibling or child or cousin or friend) being murdered by a cop. And for that, there is no cleanup or business recovery fund…only a justice system that does not deal fair penalties.

This system should not exist, but it does, and was built this way.

I believe that Black lives matter, and that “not being racist” is still too passive a stance to take. In order to truly believe and live the virtues and values of Indy Hall, it is a moral imperative that we work actively to end racism.

(Sidenote: upon re-reading those virtues and values, some omissions are glaring, or critically unfulfilled. More on that below.)

Feeling more compelled to clean the streets after the riots than to do something serious (let alone anything) about the system that incited the riot in the first place…that is the problem our Black friends and neighbors are facing.

So I am choosing to be anti-racist: to work as hard as I can to confront and fight against that system, and always remember that it is the reason behind the peaceful protests that began yesterday.

Through this view, it becomes maddening that the damaged buildings and businesses are getting more attention than the message of the protests. Damage to our city could have been avoided by having a system that supports and protects Black people instead of one that kills them.

Yes, I will allow myself a moment to be saddened by the physical damage to parts of the city I love. But I will stay focused on the reasons that the protests are happening in the first place instead. I love our whole city, and I want our whole city to be better for everyone in it.

Our Indy Hall community is also a system. We aim to encourage and inspire each other to be the best versions of each other and to put the best of ourselves out into the world. We solve problems and we do it together. In theory, our system should be able to confront this problem.

But our community’s system needs work, too. Not gonna mince words here: our membership is overwhelmingly white in a city whose population is not. No matter how good our intentions of being welcoming to all, something is off here and I know we can do better.

To spark your ideas and commitments, I’ll lead with my own.

Not being “together” due to the pandemic makes this whole thing even harder, but I believe it is both possible and necessary, and anti-racism will need to continue long beyond a coronavirus vaccine.

I’m not sure exactly what that work looks like, but I want to hear your ideas and your commitments. Here are some of mine:

  • To listen more than I talk (does that make this post ironic? maybe), and to better use my platforms to create space for more voices that need to be heard.
  • To educate myself, and to actively find and follow voices of people who are different from me so I can listen and seek to understand. The anti-racism guides linked below have been significantly helpful, and come highly recommended by a lot of the black voices that I follow and learn from. If you have resources that you have found helpful, I would welcome their addition.
  • To give people grace and offer support to find their own understanding, rather than attempt to convince them or bludgeon them with facts. This takes time, and is uncomfortable. But avoiding it isn’t an option.
  • To find ways to use my voice and platform for good here at home in Philadelphia, my home. To get involved in direct and collective action to change laws and policy while keeping Black voices centered, and in particular to ask community leaders and activists questions like “how can I help you?” and “where is my influence, whatever it may be, most useful?” I know I need guidance on this, so suggestions are welcome.

This list alone isn’t everything. But it’s laying the groundwork for more concrete actions now and choosing better actions going forward.

For people who are seeking out ways to educate yourselves, and to make a difference today, I have listed some resources below that others have shared with me.

For those of you and those you love who are hurting right now, please know that I am here however you need. I will listen, and do the work.

And I know I’m not the only one in the Indy Hall community who feels this way.

We are, and can be, and will be, a part of creating a better system.

We must be. Black Lives Matter.

I love you all very much. I support you. My phone is on if you need something, or just want to talk and have someone listen.


P.S. If you’d find it helpful to have a space to process your thoughts and feelings, starting this week I’m facilitating weekly “Red/Yellow/Green” sessions on Wednesdays at 12pm and this week, I’ll host an additional one on Monday at 5pm. You’re welcome to sit in silently or participate actively, however is useful for you.

Resources to educate yourself

Immediate Actions

Neither of these actions are enough on their own, but they are necessary and useful.

Special thank you to the community members who reviewed this for clarity and contributed resources, especially Black friends who have gone above and beyond to guide me. I’m forever grateful.