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Last year, I wrote to you about race, and some of the racial issues we are living with in this country. In my letter, I committed to working with you to help ensure a more just and equitable environment for our employees, our customers and our communities.
If you recall, my letter was prompted by a spate of racial unrest driven by tragic events that just should not be happening in our country.
This Saturday is Juneteenth, a day set aside to commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States. I think this is a good time to revisit the topics discussed with you a year ago.
We have laid the groundwork to improve our outreach efforts, within the Bank and our communities at large. A committee (One Team United) of employees has been formed to address racial issues our employees encounter, whether in the Bank or in their daily lives. Our mission is to create an environment in which we all have a sense of mutual belonging and acceptance. This is an open committee and I encourage you to join us. We have the good fortune to have enlisted the assistance of Mr. Darnell Blackburn, a former police officer who now works with organizations to better address issues associated with workplace diversity. I have found the conversations we have had in this committee enlightening and very helpful.
Under our Banksgiving program, we have awarded funds to two organizations having a focus on serving our minority and low-income neighborhoods. One will provide a mobile reading unit to reach communities with limited access to traditional libraries or reading facilities. The other organization mentors low-income and minority youth to provide helpful direction and access to recreational facilities. In addition, we’ve worked with Advancing Macomb on initiatives that provide access to recreational opportunities in diverse neighborhoods.
We are currently in discussions with our IT service provider to partner with them in a program offering grants to minority-owned businesses in our communities. We are excited about this opportunity and will provide more information as this develops.
As I have indicated, we have laid the groundwork. We have so much more to do.
Let’s recognize, we all share common bonds that can and should strengthen us as individuals and as a community. With open eyes, we can see this: through our smiles and tears, our sorrows and our joys. In these things, in our own shared humanity, we are indeed all created equal. Our joys are so much happier when they are shared. Our labors and our burdens so much lighter when a helping hand is given. With respect to racial minorities, it is so important that we work together. We must make up for lost ground, to ensure opportunities to grow and to thrive are available to all.
Each of us has felt the sting of injustice. And our human nature responds accordingly. We do not like it! Left unchecked, it leads to anger and hatred. Too often, and for too long, black Americans, and other minorities, have seen injustice stamped into the very fabric of their lives. People of goodwill must stand with them and work to put an end to this. We will all be better people for it.
There is a John Donne poem that I have always found deeply moving. I am not sure of the proper title but it is commonly called No Man is an Island. It recognizes the profound interconnectedness we all share. A line in this poem ends: “…and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” It is true, our actions touch the lives of everyone and I believe we are all called to serve one another. Working to improve the lives of others, especially those most vulnerable, we improve the lives of us all.”