To Our Cherished WAC Community-
We are not a diverse organization, bottom line. And although everyone may be trying to do their best; myself, the board, and our community must listen, educate ourselves, and take action to build a community where everyone feels welcome. We must listen with the intent to learn and to change, not in anticipation of our chance to speak. We need to hear from our members, especially those who are black, of color, queer, or LGBTQ+. Listen and let them share unapologetically, so that we can move forward in support of them. We will make mistakes, but we must try.
I have struggled in writing something from the position of ‘president’ as I was uncertain how to even respond personally and was nervous to be the voice of an organization. I am angry, confused, sad, and at times feel helpless. But my goal in all of this was to put genuine thought into my response as your President, a member, a representative of the board, and a representative of the organization. I am uncomfortable, I feel in over my head, and I don’t have the answers. But what I promise you is that I am going to try my best to address this in the most heartfelt way I can and listen to the responses.
The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are heartbreaking, but what is more heartbreaking are that they come as no surprise to a large part of our society, where discrimination, violence, and injustice are the daily norm. But many look on in disbelief, not wanting to admit this is still a reality. But it is our reality, we live in a country that has a history of systemic and institutionalized racism, abuse, and discrimination that is alive and well today.
We can’t wait any longer; being a small volunteer organization doesn’t give us an excuse to be silent, we need to step up and be on the right side of this.
We have a lot of hard work in front of us. So this is my commitment and the commitment of the WAC Board of Directors to start. Start addressing the shortcomings in our organization; we are guilty of not supporting every voice and a stronger commitment to diversity sooner. We acknowledge that we must do better to build up and to amplify the voices of those that are marginalized. This is our commitment to start educating not only ourselves as a board, but our instructors, students, and membership at large to organize and fight for an inclusive community. We ask each of you to join us.
We don’t have the answers, but we must start and we must start now. It is not an easy conversation and we will make mistakes, but we must continue to improve. We will feel uncomfortable, but we have to be OK with that during this process. We must remain open and receptive to all stories, experiences, and points of view. We need to recognize that white privilege does exist, and that just because you may not personally see something, does not mean it isn’t happening. We have to listen to each other, be willing to get called out and call each other out, but only together in solidarity with our collective efforts will we help change the narrative.
Remember, the WAC was founded to encourage the healthful enjoyment of the great outdoors, to preserve its natural beauty and to promote good fellowship among all lovers of nature. Let’s make sure that we uphold that mission.
Over the past few days there have been some comments on our Facebook page that we as a board do not endorse. It is a painful reminder that there is indeed racism in our community, this specific member has been blocked from further activity on the page and his comment deleted. Other comments have come from long standing members, and we are actively working with them to issue formal apologies. We must accept these apologies as a community. As long as a member is willing to admit fault, listen, and educate themselves we should not write them off. It serves as a reminder that we are all at different stages of our journey towards awareness of racism in ourselves and our community. We can all do better. I sincerely hope that as we go forward we do so with respect and a willingness to listen, not defend.
Washington Alpine Club President
*Please direct any questions, comments, ideas, or information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources & Action:
“Change starts at home by educating yourself on the history of racial violence and racist systems in our country. You can get started by choosing which voices to highlight and engage with. Sometimes a small shift in what we consume can make a big difference.” – Mountaineers Equity & Inclusion Committee
We realize that education is one piece of the puzzle. The board is starting our journey, please join us.
Our Immediate Action Items:
Continue board meetings and additional discussions through the summer (we typically take a hiatus).
Work with member, Katy L., who is kicking off a forum to start open club discussions. Please keep an eye out for information on participation.
In addition we have started to compile resources which we will leverage in our education process. This list will evolve and will be made available to the club in the form of a webpage in the coming weeks.
These are just some of the resources we are starting with, please add to the conversation by sending us what you are reading. We also want to note that we don’t necessarily endorse everything these links say, but they are voices that should be heard.
Here are a few ideas how you can take action now via The Access Fund (read their full statement here The Access Fund):