Board Reflections is a platform for our exceptional board members to share their thoughts and wisdom with the community. The Women’s Fund is fortunate to have and thankful for our strong board leadership and proud to amplify their voices. Recently, we asked them to reflect on the national outcry for racial justice and/or the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of their responses.


 

Tracey Morant Adams, Board Chair
Senior Executive Vice President, Renasant

“Though reflections are important, it is time for action on all our parts. What we have experienced in recent and not so recent days, should not inspire a campaign of popularity, but for action to truly make our nation a more perfect union. I am an advocate for humanity over inhumanity and will speak boldly to that fact with courage and conviction. It is time for America to write a new narrative one based on love and unity. I believe to do this, we must take action together by listening and learning from each other, in order to help ensure a better tomorrow.”

 

Brantley Fry

“The last few months have been somewhat surreal in the amount of change our country and communities have experienced. There have been tectonic shifts in our economy, our way of life, and our collective numbness to racial injustice. With the spread of novel coronavirus COVID19, our society experienced a forced slow down and with that we are experiencing somewhat of a “reset.” How many times have you heard/said the phrase, “new normal” in the last three and a half months?

The virus has left in its wake unprecedented global heartache and hardship. It shined a light on racial disparities in health care and economic opportunity. It put a magnifying glass on racial injustice in our streets with the murders of our fellow Americans, Ahmaud Aubery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. As all but essential workers were stuck at home, we had the communal experience of viewing these horrific events without the normal distractions of pre-COVID life.

Without COVID’s forced slow down, we very well may have gone about our normal course of business within just a few short news cycles after seeing yet another video of a black man being killed by police. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen such videos, but it is the first time we are faced with constant news about patients on ventilators while simultaneously hearing a Black man cry out that he can’t breathe – not because of the pandemic of COVID, but because of the plague of police brutality. It’s the first time we, as a collective, have the time and space to process what we’re seeing and give thought to what our roles are in making sure we don’t see it again.

It is my practice and tendency to look for silver linings and I believe COVID’s silver lining can be a long overdue awakening to the need for systemic change in how we treat Black Americans. We have an opportunity as business, community, and philanthropic leaders to advocate for these changes. Birmingham has led the way to meaningful civil rights changes in the past and we can lead the world again. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

Let’s harness this moment to listen, learn, and lead. Let’s join hands with our Black friends, leaders, and community members and be partners in this movement. Let’s not get distracted by rhetoric of division. Let’s take full advantage of this silver lining “reset” and strive not just toward equality, but equity.

Black lives matter.”

 

Guin Robinson
Associate Dean of Economic Development, Jefferson State Community College

“On March 4, 1861 President Abraham Lincoln, in his first inaugural address, attempted to bring the nation together. He called on his fellow citizens to listen to “the better angels of our nature.” Now more than 159 years later, we have yet as a country to adhere to his words. Words are certainly important, and they matter, but as a colleague so wisely said to me recently “it is action that changes things.” I certainly intend to take part in open dialog. I am committing myself to action to do all I can for as long as I can to address systemic racism where and when I encounter it. We have much work to do and I believe we should start by listening to our better angels.”

 

Dr. Pia Sen
BlueCross BlueShield Endowed Chair of Health Economics, School of Public Health, UAB

“Gender equity and racial equity are inextricably linked on both an economic front and health front. What was it about George Floyd’s death that sparked a reaction on a larger scale than other deeply unjust deaths due to police brutality? For me, it feels like George Floyd’s killing was the last straw, coming on top of:

  • A disease that has exposed the deep health inequities in the nation, with disproportionate adverse effects on Black communities given their economic vulnerability and having to work at more ‘exposed’ jobs
  • An economic shutdown that is hurting the less affluent more than the affluent, an added wound borne disproportionately by women and minorities, and
  • An indifference to mass suffering by people with power at the very top, including very little acknowledgment of the over 120,000 coronavirus casualties (disproportionately minority) and the sacrifices of essential workers.

I see many opportunities for deep soul-searching and reflection on whether we are upholding our contract with each other as a nation. At this stage, would Medicaid expansion in our state be such a bad thing? Maybe some taxes would have to increase marginally to fund it, but let us consider how much we could save in terms of suffering among low-income people (all genders, all races) as the fallout from COVID-19 continues. Is that really a sacrifice we are utterly reluctant to make for our fellow Alabamians? In the words of a colleague of mine, ‘We are all in this together. This statement is true not just today, but always.'”

 

Dawn Helms Sharff
Partner, Bradley

“So many of us have spent the last three months in hundreds of virtual gatherings—with colleagues, clients, family members and friends, non-profit organizations, churches and other community organizations. And bad news has seemed so much more prevalent than good. As we witness the devastating effects of both a global pandemic and social injustice in our country and our beloved communities, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by sadness. But, if there was ever a time for each of us to do something, it’s now.

We have an opportunity to demand solutions to systemic problems and to effect real, permanent change. We need each other. We need to speak up when we see injustice. We need to thank every essential and frontline worker we encounter. We need to vote. We need to volunteer our time to the organizations that are helping our most vulnerable and dedicated to creating racial, gender and economic equity for all of our citizens. We need to financially support those organizations. We need to listen to each other. We need to love each other.”

 


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here have been given by each individual in their capacity as a board member of The Women’s Fund. They belong solely to each board member, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of their employer and/or any other group to which they may be affiliated.

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