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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Northern Virginia Rotary Clubs Letter on Racism--
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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Northern Virginia Rotary Clubs Letter on Racism--

Signed by District Governors and 10 Area Clubs.

George Floyd’s needless and heartless death has set in motion a dramatic nationwide response that we refuse to ignore. Like millions of Americans, we were sickened by the image of a police officer kneeling on the neck of a defenseless human being. No matter what your ideological position, these actions are indefensible.

The protests that started in the streets of Minneapolis have spread quickly to Washington, DC and to communities in our backyard, including Alexandria and Manassas, VA. Our communities are now gripped by protests that have started peacefully and some have now turned violent. As Rotarians and community leaders, it is irresponsible to remain silent as thousands in our communities are tired of living in fear and frightened to speak the truth of how deeply racism is institutionalized in our society. Our responsibility as community leaders is to shine a light on what is unjust, unfair and what cannot stand any longer. We must and will work with our members and our neighbors to construct solutions that grow our communities, our nation, and ultimately our world. In our opinion, this is the definition of what a Rotarian does and is.

Change must come from the community and from constant - and often uncomfortable dialogue. Only by joining and working together can institutional racism be dismantled and a more just future created for all our community members.

Thus, starting today and starting now, let the world hear our voice that Rotarians within Rotary District 7610 support those that have taken to the streets peacefully in whatever voice they can muster that we as a society will not tolerate racial injustice. We affirm that:

  • No person of color should live with constant fear;

  • No person of color should fear that color of their skin should determine the form of justice dispensed; and

  • No parent of a child of color should have to teach their children to fear the police – in order to survive and thrive in America;.

We affirm these statements in the spirit of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King that “we dream of a day where children are not judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character”.

A dream without action is a fantasy and Rotarians are people of action. They live by a mantra that is possibly more important now than any time in our recent history: service above self. Rotarians live by a four-way test that drives all that we think, say, and do that includes building a society of goodwill and better friendships. Our clubs are a forum where people of all ideologies, races, creeds, sexes, origins, and sexualities can come together to exchange ideas and create a better society than the one we currently inhabit.

As such, we propose a forum that will facilitate community-based solutions developed by those most impacted and by those who must listen: community leaders, police and first responders, government officials, and others. This forum will provide the opportunity for participants to identify and speak the truth about racial injustice and discrimination – through a healthy and productive dialogue with the ultimate goal at all times of developing constructive solutions to the problems we have identified above.

We offer our organization to serve as the hub of this new solution. If you are interested in joining us in this endeavor, we urge you to contact Rene Laws, Chairperson of the District 7610 Diversity Committee at 7610diversitycommittee@gmail.com. We commit to being part of the solution.

For far too long, the problems and devastating societal impacts from racial inequality, have gone unquestioned. In our communities, we know too many police officers unfairly labeled as racists who are judged by other’s actions. We also know far too many of our friends and neighbors who have been judged simply by the color of their skin and size of their bank account. It is time for a change. Let that change continue with us.

We look forward to hearing from those interested in being part of the solution.

Jonathan Lucus, District Governor

Harry Henderson, District Governor-elect

Patricia Borowski, District Governor-Nominee

Sheila Brennan, District Governor-Nominee Designate

Rene Laws, District 7610 Diversity Chairperson

Felton Page, District 7610 Diversity Chairperson-elect

Dr. Janet Brown, Past District Governor 7610

Shawn Lumpkin, President-elect North Stafford Rotary Club

Dr. Deborah Jackson, President McLean Rotary Club

Tyra Garlington, President Tysons Corner Rotary Club

Barry Gordon, President-elect Fairfax Rotary Club

Engie Mokhtar, President Alexandria West Rotary Club

William Berry, President-elect Alexandria West Rotary Club

Stephanie Arnold, President Falls Church Rotary Club

Loretta “Lori” Prencipe, District 7610 Public Image Chairperson

Wallicia Gill, President-elect Centreville and Chantilly Rotary Club

Raquel Neumann, President Arlington Rotary Club

Katie Gould, President Leesburg Rotary Club