The week of July 4 was a horrible week. On July 7, I was halfway to The Improve Group’s office when I learned that Philando Castile had been killed by a St. Anthony police officer. My initial shock gave way to deep grief and sickening feeling as I heard more details; about the woman and child who loved him and witnessed him die; about how race and income both trapped him in a horrible cycle of harassment for traffic violations; and about how he was a beloved member of my community – a graduate of my high school, a joyful fixture at the elementary school my brother and sister attended.
And then, more waves of grief: for the five Dallas officers killed while on duty at a Black Lives Matter protest; about the Texas man killed a few days later; about the three Baton Rouge officers killed in the midst of protests about the death of Alton Sterling at the hands of Baton Rouge police.
All of the privilege in my life – white privilege, the power that comes from owning a business, from having the rarified position of being able to advise people about social impact – offers a lot of choices, including to ignore the world if I choose. But my parents, faith, and chosen profession all pointed to action. I just felt uncertain about what action to take. Lost and adrift, I gained a small comfort from a Jewish concept that no one is required to solve all the world’s problems, but you must take action anyway.
On July 13-14, our staff helped Sunrise Banks build a Habitat for Humanity house in St. Paul’s Summit-University neighborhood. Overhead, a news helicopter hovered - covering Philando Castile’s funeral and the protests surrounding his death. The physical activity and comradery of the day helped us focus on the tasks ahead – that each of us can make a difference, and we can find ways to do so that build community, love and respect. It also highlighted the slow pace of change. At the end of the day, I felt a little blue that I was so incompetent at building and had helped framed one – yes one – window. My wise colleague Kayla remarked “well, that’s one more window than they had framed yesterday.”
I’m really humbled to be part of a team at The Improve Group that has chosen “building a better world” as our ultimate core value. I see my team striving every day to use evaluation to promote equity:
By honoring all voices
By uncovering bias
By guiding leaders and policy makers towards more equitable choices
By giving agents of change information that is helpful in their work
I know the work ahead will be hard, and that I’ll make missteps along the way. But I’m holding myself accountable to the hard work ahead.
Leah Goldstein Moses, Founder & CEO