A year ago, in January 2020, we convened with a group of more than 20 individuals from the Black community. They were nonprofit and business leaders, civic and church leaders, most who have been fighting for equity and justice in our state for decades.
At the Foundation, these sorts of gatherings are not rare. We have always relied on diverse perspectives and community members to help meet our mission to serve all Alaskans.
What was different this go-around was the timing. Within weeks of the convening, the reality of the coronavirus pandemic began to disrupt life. Then in May, attention pivoted to something more pervasive: longstanding racism and specifically unjust killings of unarmed Black men — and women — in America. An upswell of momentum was happening and the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis would serve as a tipping point.
If you remember what your inbox looked like at that time, it was filled with corporation after corporation taking a stand. “We do not tolerate hate,” they said. “Together we stand in solidarity.” The regular cadence of monthly newsletters was interrupted with a special message calling out the murderous act that took Floyd’s life and declaring their support for the Black community.
We soon regrouped with Black community leaders for advice on what to do. In one of those meetings, a participant expressed frustration that though he had heard from so many national companies on where they stand, he wished he knew where Alaska organizations stood. “I’d rather not guess,” he said.
Good idea, we thought. So we asked others to join us in making it clear where Alaskans stand when it comes to our beloved community.
With fellow sponsors Mat-Su Health Foundation and The Alaska Community Foundation, we are proud to launch videos on social media and television featuring leaders from health care and government, Alaska Native corporations and the oil industry, the arts and airlines, and the faith community who are standing with the Black community.
It’s hard to get a lot of voices in a two-minute video, but we aimed for broad representation across sectors. We are grateful for those who agreed to participate. And we hope that members of the Black community in our state never have to guess where we stand. You can watch here:
With this new year, our agenda is stronger than ever. At a time when so much is upside-down, racial inequity must be upended. Please join us in a focused effort to support Alaska’s Black community.
As Julie Decker, director and CEO of the Anchorage Museum, says in the video, “This is not a moment. This is a movement. And we pledge to continue the momentum.”
What can you do? Speak up and stand up for social justice and equity for all. Be bold in new things big and small. Check that doors open widely. Offer invitations to those from cultures not your own. When we all are back in a room, make sure People of Color are not just at the table, but setting the agenda. Let’s make our Alaska home a better place, a more-just place, the most beloved place.
Our CEO Diane Kaplan says: “It’s time for critical change.”
Special thanks to the 10 Alaskans who participated:
- Julie Decker, Executive Director and CEO, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center
- Darlene Gates, President, ExxonMobil Alaska
- Diane Kaplan, President and CEO, Rasmuson Foundation
- Anthony Mallott, CEO, Sealaska Corporation
- Jim Palmer, Board Chair, The Alaska Community Foundation
- Marilyn Romano, Regional Vice President, Alaska Airlines
- Elizabeth Ripley, CEO, Mat-Su Health Foundation
- Rev. Matt Schultz, Pastor, Anchorage First Presbyterian Church
- Preston Simmons, Chief Executive, Providence Health & Services Alaska
- Tiffany Zulkosky, Representative, Alaska State Legislature