Our message to the community: What we can do to combat racism

Last year during our community impact planning process, Waunakee Neighborhood Connection’s board of directors created our vision statement, “A thriving community where all are valued.” During this time when our community, nation, and world have been shaken by recent events, it seems particularly relevant. We recognize, though, that for our vision to be realized, we must first confront and do our part to eliminate racism.

The senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are only the latest additions to a much too long list. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected communities of color due to a variety of health and socioeconomic factors. We have seen a white woman accuse a black man of threatening her, when he was not, and then threatening to weaponize the police against him. And, recent local situations in Waunakee have exposed bias and racism that exist in our own community.

These events, on top of the stress of changes to our lives brought on by the pandemic, may have you feeling angered, sad, tired, confused, frustrated, or hopeless. We realize that the culmination of these events has created a perfect storm that must lead to lasting change. However, it can be difficult to know how to best respond and move forward in a positive way.

When we adopted our vision statement, we knew that achieving it could not be accomplished overnight. It would be a journey that would require ongoing listening, education, deep and difficult reflection, collaboration, advocacy, and action. It would stretch us beyond our flagship programs of the free store and holiday programs, and it would make a greater contribution to building the strength of our community.

Our mission of providing programs and resources that engage neighbors in supporting and empowering one another gives us guidance in determining a way forward toward the vision. Individuals become empowered through knowledge and connections, and the first step in valuing others is to understand others.

As we continue this work internally with our board and team, we also want to be part of the solution in the community. We had already planned to launch community education programs this year and have decided to broaden our scope of topics. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be sharing resources and opportunities to help you increase your understanding of those who may have different lived experiences than yours. We’ll explore topics such as racial and social justice; diversity, tolerance, and inclusion; poverty and the working poor; and the power of connectedness and community. You’ll find these in our newsletters, Facebook page, and other materials. Our hope is that you will find something that will spur your thinking, increase empathy, and move us all toward creating a more just and equitable world.

If you have thoughts or ideas that you’d like to share with us on these topics, or are interested in collaborating in some way, please reach out to our executive director, Lisa Humenik, at lhumenik@waunakeenc.com or (608)849-5740.