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A Statement From our President & CEO John Schiavone

How Can We Change?

St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore stands in solidarity with individuals, organizations, and communities across the nation in expressing our grief and outrage for George Floyd and others who have died before him due to violence born out of systemic racism. Like many, in the wake of this most recent incident, we are left wondering: Why, in 2020, is this still happening, and how can we help bring about change so that this atrocity, as well as other symptoms of systemic racism, end? For good.

The George Floyd incident triggers many emotions of frustration, anger, and fear, especially in a community like Baltimore where the memories of Freddie Gray and the aftermath of his brutal death linger.  As a person who is white, I can’t pretend to fully understand these emotions or the experience of being a Black American. But I empathize with the deeply felt pain that this new incident of police violence resurrects for so many people of color in our community.

As an organization, St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore strongly condemns racism in all forms, as well as the violence and social injustices that too often affects people of color–especially Black Americans, who are often treated unfairly not only in our criminal justice system, but in other areas such as education, housing, employment, and healthcare.

We must, as a society, move beyond slogans, poetically worded statements of support, or social media posts. Words are important, but true change only happens when each of us as individuals, and as organizations, carefully listen to those with lived experience, fully acknowledge the racial disparities that exist, and deeply examine, with honesty and integrity, our own integral roles in the current systems, structures, and biased attitudes that provide explicit and implicit advantages for white people, and overt disadvantages for people of color.  It is only then that we can possibly work to correct the legacy of structural and violent racism that persist around us to this day. In short, it means going beyond simply stating what is wrong, and working towards what is right.

The reality is that many Black Americans have not had access to the same resources, opportunities, and support systems as others.  Systemic, structural racism remains a monumental barrier for many, and it must be completely dismantled to achieve the ideals of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and for everyone to realize America’s promise.

At St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, we see the impact of these disadvantages play out with the many vulnerable people in our community we serve every day, such as the vast racial disparities we see in homelessness, and the disproportionate health and economic impacts of the coronavirus on people of color.

St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore has a long-standing commitment to racial justice. But with a keen awareness that most of our staff, and the populations we serve, are people of color, with the vast majority being Black Americans, working against racial injustice must be an integral part of how we think and approach our work. We are dedicated to strengthening diversity, equity and inclusion in our organization, and our community, and working collaboratively with those fighting to end systemic racism in all forms. We do this in part by living our publicly stated values:

  • Inclusion: Promoting diversity and embracing the unique attributes, characteristics, abilities, cultures, classes, faiths, orientation, and races that make people who they are, recognizing that we are one human family;
  • Equity: Working collaboratively with others to eliminate systemic disadvantages so that all people are guaranteed fair treatment and have the opportunity to live in decent, safe, and affordable housing, receive quality education, be employed at a fair wage, have access to health care and healthy food, share in prosperity, and reach their full potential;
  • Dignity: Seeing God’s image in every person, recognizing their inherent value by offering respect, compassion, and giving special care to those who are materially poor, marginalized, and vulnerable.

While these values are important and central to our identity, we must challenge ourselves to do even more as an organization than what we are doing now. Today, St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore commits to holding ourselves accountable for the following six equity measures:

  1. Work to consistently uphold and advance the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion within in our own organization;
  2. Fight against the many ways that structural racism manifests itself, and actively join with partner institutions and organizations in advocating for equitable policies and solutions, particularly in the areas where we work of housing, education, employment, and food access;
  3. Continue and further our practice of hiring and promoting people of color and diverse backgrounds and characteristics to positions of leadership within our organization;
  4. Increase employee awareness of implicit bias through ongoing training, confront our own biases, and embrace discussions about racial equity and inclusion as a normal part of our organization culture;
  5. Promote racial and cultural sensitivity in our employment and hiring practices, in the way we treat our clients, and in how we deliver our services;
  6. Strive to constantly learn from others, recognizing that achieving greater equity for all is not so much a defined goal as it is an ongoing pursuit.

This is a key moment in time. We must not allow it to pass us by without working hard to bring about the transformational changes that are needed to allow us to be better, moving forward with a renewed sense of respect and caring for each other. I hope you will join us.

John Schiavone

President and CEO, St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore