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LETTERS On justice, racism, solidarity
2020-07-08

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Demanding justice

Dear familia:

In June, another transgender woman of color was murdered—this time, in our own home, in the Southwest Side of Chicago. Today, we honor Selena Reyes-Hernandez.

Selena was murdered because of transphobia. This is yet another victim of the epidemic of violence toward trans* woman. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects has reported that half of all the hate crimes against LGBTQ people have been directed at trasnsgender folks* , 40% towards trans* women of color. Yet, those numbers could be higher, since trans* folks hardly report to the authorities due to fear and further stigma.

We demand for full justice for Selena.

We also demand that schools and community organizations do better. Do better to educate about the trans* community, do better to eliminate stigma, do better at eradicating violence. There is absolutely no reason why the young man who murdered Selena should have had easy access to a gun, and even more importantly, he should have never even thought about murdering someone. We call on our allies, especially our straight and cisgender allies in the Latinx community, to speak out. We are asking for investments and funding for organizations led by trans* women of color.

We demand full justice for Selena. We will not rest until trans* women can live their authentic selves without any fear.

Rest in power, Selena.

Sincerely,

ALMA: The Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action

Standing against racism

Dear community:

June is Pride Month. Over 50 years ago, on June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. It was one of a long history of raids that the queer community had been regularly subjected to. But that time was different. Members across the LGBTQ+ community demanded to be treated humanely and fought for their rights.

During Pride, the LGBTQ+ community commemorates the Stonewall riots and celebrates the civil rights achievements of the community.

An axiom of the LGBTQ+ community is "Silence = Death." The LGBTQ+ community continues to fight for justice and equal rights. We would not have gained civil-rights advances without the voices of our allies joining ours.

Last year, at our annual meeting, the Alliance of Illinois Judges ( AIJ ) asked allies to be a voice for equality and to educate themselves on issues facing the LGBTQ+ community; but more must be done to stand with people of color.

Equal protection and equal access will not be realities without confronting systemic barriers to both. Discussing these barriers, educating ourselves, and working towards a better justice system are integral parts of allyship. Judges and lawyers take an oath to uphold the Constitution. As Judges, we have the responsibility to ensure equal protection and equal access to justice.

The additional struggles and barriers LGBTQ+ people of color face are sharply in focus this year during Pride month. We cannot be silent.

What can be done? We can be better allies by pledging to come out, speak up and join in.

—Come out: Explicitly denounce racism to family and friends and stand for justice and equality.

—Speak up: Speak up against racist language and microaggressions. Call out injustices. Lift up the voices of our black and brown colleagues.

—Join in: Become involved and educated on the history, legal issues, and current struggles facing Black and brown communities.

We must work collectively for justice daily not just in our courtrooms, but every day in our communities.

The world needs us to do better and to be better. We are one nation and one people: e pluribus unum.

Together,

Alliance of Illinois Judges

Solidarity

Dear community:

The Kennedy Forum Illinois unequivocally stands with our community against racism and oppression.

The senseless murder of George Floyd, and the many who preceded him, emphasizes the injustice and inequity that have perpetuated both physical and psychological violence against the Black community for far too long. Racial inequity, developed over centuries, results in disparities across so many domains, including health, wealth and safety. If we wish to see lasting change that will eliminate discrimination and oppression again Black people, words are not enough.

The Kennedy Forum Illinois has and always will stand for equality—not just for those with mental health and addiction challenges, but for all who are discriminated against. This includes ending the racist systems that perpetuate psychological violence. We want to contribute to the important conversation taking place in our nation by promoting resources and actions we can all take to heal and address the trauma caused by racism:

—Listen. It is a simple, but powerful ( and often difficult ) thing for people to do. Many of us can't begin to understand the challenges the Black community faces on a daily basis. Oppression, violence, threats, and micro-aggressions can have a lasting impact. To respect the experiences of others, we have to be able to discuss them and listen with open hearts and minds.

—Become an anti-racist. The Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of African American History and Culture created a website called "How to be Antiracist" that explores what all individuals, regardless of race, can do through self-awareness, self-reflection and action. It is no longer enough to be "non-racist. "

—Learn how racism undermines mental well-being and contributes to mental health disorders, including those caused by trauma. Become educated about how we can help those affected to heal.

—Access and share Psych Hub's "Race, Racism, and Mental Health Resources" ( available under "Alternatives to Calling the Police During Mental Health Crises" on Facebook ).

—Practice and promote self-care by attending free trainings, such as our recent webinar "During the Pandemic: Strategies to Help Manage Stress, Improve Self-Care, and Reduce Isolation" ( available on YouTube ). Emotionally healthy people are more compassionate toward others.

John F. Kennedy, whose ideals and values shaped The Kennedy Forum Illinois' mission, fought for racial equality throughout his presidency. President Kennedy's words ring true today when he stated that our nation "…was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened." The Kennedy Forum Illinois proudly honors his legacy each and every day. We will continue to fight to end structural racism in our country. Please join us and help to be the change.

Cheryl Potts

Executive Director

The Kennedy Forum Illinois


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