In the wake of the civil unrest this past Summer, SOSNA issued a statement affirming our commitment to Black Lives Matter. In that initial statement, we committed to a collaborative process to evaluate our current programs and initiatives to do better for Black, Indigenous and People of Color in our community and city. This second message is being released in the wake of the death of Philadelphian, Walter Wallace Jr. who was shot by a Philadelphia Police officer at 61st & Locust in West Philadelphia. We can’t help but worry about what we can do and should have done knowing that this tragic injustice can happen anywhere at any time - even in our beloved Philadelphia.
Since our original statement in June, our Board has been reflecting, researching and responding to discuss ways we can move towards community safety that supports and heals, not disenfranchises and displaces.
Below are our first steps that we are taking:
COMPLETE AN IMPLICIT-BIAS TRAINING. This mandatory training for our 15 board members and executive director will help us better understand our personal biases, power, and privilege. The training will provide us a basic understanding of the historical context of racism and demographics in Philadelphia and understand how the historical context may shape attitudes and inform bias. This first step aims to create a baseline knowledge to readily identify instances of implicit bias in our communities that will help begin to develop strategies that would advance racial equity in our neighborhood.
COMPLETE A DE-ESCALATION TRAINING. This second step is a training designed for customer service models that encourages people to deal with socio-situations that can have tragic results if not properly handled. Since SOSNA constantly interacts with our community, having tools to be able to de-escalate situations and to be able to empathize with marginalized groups will be helpful in reducing trauma in our neighborhood caused by gun violence, development that displaces and implicit bias.
CREATE A COMMUNITY SPACE. SOSNA’s mission has always been to ‘serve as a reliable resource for residents and businesses’. To this end, one of our Board members has been exploring the concept of converting a part of our new, bigger office space into a community center - a gathering space (post-COVID) that can be used for community meetings, content creation, learning, sharing, performing and more.
HOST A ‘HISTORY OF SOSNA’ EVENT. Our neighborhood is rich in history and culture and it all predates SOSNA. This virtual event will be a Q&A of current and past community members to speak about the changes they’ve seen and experienced over time in our neighborhood and what they think the future holds. Stay tuned for more details in early 2021.
These four steps are the beginning of our journey to unpack the years of trauma and displacement caused directly or indirectly by our organization. We hope to learn from the past and have tools to use in the present and future. The trainings listed above are a first step and as time goes on, we hope to host collaborative community workshops on these topics so we can grow and learn together as a community.