Thursday, June 3, 2021
A year ago in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, former WMCAT President + CEO Daniel Williams authored a blog post called “We Won’t Stop”, sharing WMCAT’s commitment to our community and the role of our work in pushing systems and advancing racial justice. Now, current President + CEO Jamon Alexander reflects on finding hope over the last year by “doing” the work.
Last week marked one year since George Floyd’s murder.
The conditions that led to this crime have been felt by WMCAT staff and students alike. Policies like redlining extracted wealth, creating neighborhood-level, multigenerational poverty and wealth gaps in urban cores across the country; “welfare reform” and “tough on crime” approaches removed supports and penalized people affected by systemic racism; or as Austin Channing Brown said at our final WMCAT 20/20 series event in May, a simple failure “to see humanity.”
Last summer rocked me to my core – not because it was surprising or even unexpected – to me, it was official confirmation of a sense of hopelessness I felt, that in my lifetime we’d see meaningful change in racialized outcomes. What happened to Mr. Floyd should never happen. And such an extreme shouldn’t be the bar for accountability, justice, and to pursue a world in which humanity is seen.
I have watched, read, listened, reflected, and cried a lot in the last year.
Austin Channing Brown frames hope as something to be embodied; something you DO. Every day over the last year, I’ve been reminded of our work at WMCAT and how we continue to pursue outcomes that are deserved. Whether it’s providing a platform for teens to amplify their voice through a documentary like “Rhythm and Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids” or a fashion show at the Grand Rapids Art Museum; connecting adults to living wage career opportunities that move families to economic security; an eight-month series that brought community thinkers and doers together to wrestle with new ideas and sharpen a vision for the future; or integrating equity-centered design principles into school systems; and so much more – we are “doing” and in that, there’s hope.
As we continue to work in West Michigan to provide equitable access to opportunity, I’m also encouraged by national efforts to reimagine a better future for all. WMCAT has been and will continue to be involved in these larger conversations and networks. I encourage you – our community – to speak into the issues that matter most to you as we collectively work to advance community prosperity.
If we are to have hope for meaningful change, it will require all of us. Thank you for “doing” with WMCAT.
President + CEO
West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology