When MLK wrote these words in 1963, he was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama after leading a march of Black protesters during the Civil Rights Movement. In this letter, he highlighted the need for direct action to transform the immoral and unjust laws disparaging Black lives and communities of color. Nearly 60 years later, this racial injustice and inhumanity still persists.
How can we live in the land of the free when the color of your skin could be a death sentence? After Trayvon Martin’s young life was taken in 2012, it sent shockwaves throughout our country, igniting civil unrest and setting off a succession of protests and marches. Since then, the number of deaths has not ceased and the scale of justice has yet to move. Years of witnessing Black deaths has only—as journalist Jamil Smith puts it—resulted in the “deadening of our collective senses.” Let us not contribute to another decade of systemic oppression and murder at the hands of the law. Now is the time to unite in one clear understanding:
Black Lives Matter.
We join George Floyd’s family, our community, the nation, and the world in mourning his tragic death. We share the outrage at the injustice and inhumanity of his killing at the hands of police.
We are angry, heartbroken, and devastated. We cannot fathom the trauma our Black communities are experiencing. We must utilize our platform to speak out against the systemic racism plaguing our nation.
Racism permeates all systems and institutions in our society—including justice. For George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, and many others, we must continue to fight for justice.
Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 on the principle of radical inclusivity. We sought to put Dr. King’s message of the beloved community into action–the idea that poverty and homelessness will not be tolerated because it violates the basic tenets of human decency. This cannot be accomplished without systemic change that prioritizes the lives and human dignity of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Join us in building a more just future.
Ways you can take action with us:
- Seek out and listen to local Black-led organizations and leadership. Start with the Open Letter to Community by Coalition of Communities of Color Executive Director Marcus Mundy
- Know your history. Learn from Oregon’s racist past
- Commit to naming, understanding, and uprooting all forms of racism and White Supremacy
- Be actively anti-racist in every facet of your life
- Support the Black Lives Matter movement and organizations on the frontlines
In Partnership and Solidarity,
President & CEO, Habitat for Humanity Portland Region