The following open letter was written by Seed Global Health Founder and CEO, Dr. Vanessa Kerry in solidarity with, and in response to, broad public outrage arising from the death of George Floyd.
Dear friends, staff, partners, and supporters,
I want to acknowledge the multiple events of the past several weeks in the United States and especially the most recent, the brutal and unjustified death of George Floyd. Painfully, these events – and deaths – are not new in America. They represent a long history of suppression, structural violence and racism in the country and the many issues we have never adequately addressed. The wounds and effects run deep: from the overt accusations and prejudice towards people of color, to their deaths at the hands of law enforcement and disproportionately to COVID, to the perpetual epidemics among people of color of poverty, health disparities, and incarceration to name a few.
I want to acknowledge the events, and also the profound hurt, fear, anger, and divide they are creating. None of this is okay. And none of this can be considered normal though it somehow seems to have been for so long. It is not normal. It is not acceptable and it is not an America in which anyone should live or our colleagues abroad should know.
I know I have much to learn to understand and help best address these injustices and I cannot ever fully understand the experience of being a person of color in America – or the world. But I want to acknowledge to our community that I am committed to doing all I can.
Our team, friends, partners, and supporters – our community and collective family – are diverse in a multitude of ways and I am sure these events are being felt differently by all. To our colleagues of color who are experiencing these events most personally and directly, I am struggling to find the needed words to express my sadness, apologies, and fury at what is happening. Candidly they all seem to not be enough but please know I acknowledge what is happening in America today and it is not okay. It never has been. Please know I am in solidarity in all the ways I can be.
Conversations about race and racism are often difficult and for some may be intimidating. My hope though is that we can learn from one another how we can help be a part of the solution in our everyday actions as well as our work. I want us to proceed together in honest conversations, without judgment, and nurturing learning, exploration, and understanding so we can celebrate and support every member of this community. I want to ensure we have a means to discuss, explore, and address these, as well as, all diversity issues within our own community, and I welcome ideas.
Through our work together we have seen how many parts of the world have been crippled by racism, colonialism, and American/European narratives; these have fostered the inequities, structural violence, and power paradigms that are causing so much suffering today.
Together, I have to believe and hope we can help to change the narrative in America, in Africa and other settings. We have no choice but to succeed.
With mourning, humility, commitment, and love
Vanessa B. Kerry, MD, MSc
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Seed Global Health