Today, Billy Shore, founder and executive chair of Share Our Strength, the organization that runs the No Kid Hungry campaign, shared this personal note with our staff in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and other acts of violence against unarmed black men and women.
If you’re like me, after a week like this, you may have dark moments where it feels like there is no way out: of this pandemic, of home quarantine, of persistent racism and its deadly manifestations, of political division, even over something as fundamental as wearing a mask to protect others from an incurable disease.
And so I find I’m having to remind myself that all we’ve done together these past 10 weeks, not to mention for many years before, says that there is. That way out, the way forward, lies in continuing to ensure that everything we say and do unifies rather than divides.
That is the unspoken story of Share Our Strength which distinguishes us from many others. We have been assiduously bipartisan, not only because we believe it to be effective, but because we believe in people of different views finding common ground. We have been the premier organization demonstrating the power of unity between businesses and nonprofits. Before and during the coronavirus crisis, we have been the national leader in persuading hundreds of thousands of Americans, even those suffering themselves, to sacrifice on behalf of the needs of our most vulnerable kids – black, brown, white, rural, urban.
Our growth and impact have less to do with strategy, funds raised, partners, and even leadership, than with the values you and each of us puts out into the world with every step we take. The same values that underlie a unifying brand promise that says no kid hungry means no kid.
Of course none of this is enough in the face of racism, violence, inequality and justice denied. We must also reject the illusory safety of silence and speak out. Even though it may seem implicit in who we are, we must say out loud: the killing of unarmed black men and every other form and manifestation of racism is unacceptable.
For those who don’t think that’s the business of an anti-hunger organization, we must also say out loud: it is the business of all human beings.
We must better execute our own commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion - from how our board governs, to how we raise funds, to the public policies for which we advocate and the grants we make.
One of the hardest parts of what’s happening in this moment is how much is beyond our control. But a colleague often reminds me of social justice leader Howard Thurman’s wise words: “Never reduce your dreams to the level of the event which is your immediate experience.”
Let’s stay committed to what we can control: making sure our actions and words, wherever we live and work, whether we show up in person or on social media, have the effect of bringing people together not driving them farther apart. Throughout history, every great leader – religious, business, political, civil rights - has aspired to the goal set by Dr. Martin Luther King: “to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls, as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”
That is what I find myself thinking about this morning. We are all processing a lot, and in real time. None of us has a monopoly on wisdom. Please feel free to share your own thoughts on how we as individuals and as an organization can better respond to events as they unfold.
Stay safe and healthy. And help keep us on the path toward a way out and a way forward.