June 4th, 2020
We are horrified. The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, George Floyd in Minnesota, and Tony McDade in Florida are abhorrent, as are the brutal beatings that we have also witnessed. Words cannot express the devastation we feel as the list of lives lost and lives destroyed due to racism, bigotry, and intolerance grows. Like us, these people were loved members of a community. They did not deserve to have their lives taken from them.
We join with the legal aid community in condemning racism. We are encouraged and fortified by the overwhelming statements of solidarity and action from the legal aid community in Maine and across the country. We cannot lose sight of the role legal aid organizations play in shaping systems and policies. We must use our tools, training, and influence to confront systemic racism and fight against the disparate treatment of minorities. We are committed to advancing justice and overcoming systemic oppression. We commit to joining our colleagues to find a better path forward to achieve justice for communities of color and all minorities.
We cannot be silent. Institutional racism and the oppression of minorities are counter to our core belief in justice for all. We acknowledge that these individual events are occurring as part of a long history of oppression, hate, violence in our country, state, and local communities. Fighting for equal protections and equity has been a fundamental part of our work since we were founded more than 50 years ago. We join others in the legal aid community in their commitment to use clear language on the need for racial justice in all of our work and ensure that there is no question that we stand in solidarity with the Black community and other communities of color and against the racial inequality that still plagues our nation. Now, we heed the cries in our community and pledge to raise our voice. Racism is wrong. Oppression is inexcusable. We will use our voices to defeat racism and bigotry in all its forms.
We acknowledge that this is not easy. There is not a simple solution to the problems confronting our society. Not everyone will agree. These conversations are difficult, but we must not be afraid. We will center on perspectives that have traditionally been left out of the conversation. We will look to those who have devoted their lives to racial justice work and those who experience the impact of racism most profoundly in their daily lives. We will make mistakes and we will learn.
We affirm our core values. Our organization is centered on 7 values that are essential to our approach: Respect, Optimism, Impact, Professionalism, Monitoring for results, Ownership, and Sustainability. These values will continue to guide us in our conversations about racial justice. In addition, we are committed to re-evaluating our core values to more expressly reflect our commitment to addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
We commit to reexamining our own systems. Racism—historical, structural, and governmental—pervades our society. We in the legal aid community are not immune to it and acknowledge our responsibility and obligation to work towards eliminating racism in all its forms. We know a statement is not enough; action is needed. There are many actions organizations can take to address racial and economic justice and support an inclusive and diverse community. Today we commit to engaging in courageous conversations on race within Pine Tree Legal Assistance. We commit to dedicating time and resources to assess Pine Tree’s current diversity, equity and inclusion practices and to develop a holistic strategy to meet the needs of our staff, clients and community.