Pictured: A sign held at Simi Valley With Hall at a Black Lives Matter protest on Saturday, June 6, 2020. Photo by Kimberly Rivers.
We stand in solidarity with those who wish to ensure all have a sense of safety, belonging, justice, equity and peace regardless of race, gender, age, sexuality or other identities.
by Mike Powers
We all watched in horror as Mr. George Floyd was killed by a Minnesota police officer. It is incumbent upon us to recognize the pain and the outrage of this injustice. Each time one of these needless and tragic events happens, it seems we all pledge and hope it will get better. And then this happens again. We have reached a tipping point from which we can never go back. My heart is with the family of Mr. Floyd, with the African American community and with all members of our community who are hurting, feeling hopeless, and afraid.
It is time we seize this moment and work to stop these events from happening. Together, as a community, we can and will do it. We must do more. It starts with having an open and honest dialogue with one another. We value our relationships with our community members and community groups. We are stronger together. We stand in solidarity with those who wish to ensure all have a sense of safety, belonging, justice, equity and peace regardless of race, gender, age, sexuality or other identities.
This week, we convened a meeting of our County Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to have an open conversation about how to engage our workforce in these discussions and to develop recommendations for moving forward. This is going to be an ongoing dialogue that we will build into the fabric of our culture to best serve our community.
One of the participants shared that she wanted to talk about race when she returned to work Monday but wasn’t sure if she could. Yes, you can. We need you to. And so, we will work on short term, medium- and long-term goals to continue to foster and embrace diversity and inclusion in our workforce. Another member shared that she came in on Monday devastated by the killing of Mr. Floyd and expected to be able to talk about it, while others around her talked about how much they enjoyed being able to go out to dinner finally now that restaurants have reopened. Also shared by another member was that they feel there is a contract, kind of a general understanding that people and employees will all be treated equally and fairly. But that that contract does not always apply to people of color. People want action. And they want it to be a sustained effort, not a few good gestures for a while only to fade away back to normal. I am deeply humbled that members of the Task Force openly shared their feelings and discussed ideas on how to listen to our workforce and community. I appreciate that they have allowed me to share those thoughts with you.
I am grateful for the opportunity to meet and have discussions with community partners like Regina Crawford and Stacy Luney, leadership from the NAACP, daughters of the legendary civil rights leader John Hatcher. We met with them and local law enforcement to support their rally at the Government Center. In this meeting they shared the importance of their partnership with local law enforcement, including our sheriff, and the county, and that it is based on trust. They know if they have an issue, they can pick up the phone and get a meeting to try to resolve their issue right away, but we need to continue to build on these relationships of trust with them and our community. The rally was a powerful and inspiring event that brought people together to share their experiences and desire for equity and justice.
So many members of our county team work at the county because they are the community and they care about the mission of helping people, especially the most vulnerable and those in times of their greatest need. I so appreciate their commitment and compassion. We are committed to working with our community, engaging with you, listening to you, and working to continue build trust so that each member of our community can feel and be safe.
As all of this is happening during the pandemic, there is a community spirit that gives me hope: our community’s compassionate resolve to help others. We have seen it through the many disasters we have faced and now with the efforts to physically distance to protect others from the spread of the virus. These selfless actions have saved lives. That same compassionate resolve and engagement will ensure our community emerges stronger, more empathetic, more aware and more connected to the diversities and differences that make our community special and united.
Let our work together continue to grow and let us come up with solutions for meaningful change.
Mike Powers is the chief executive officer of Ventura County.