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A Statement From The Corps Network: Now Is Not the Time for Silence

Black Lives Matter

We stand with the Black community, as well as other people of color, who have been living with and fighting against systemic racism for decades. Our country has work to do to stand up to racism, oppression, and injustice wherever it exists.

As the national association of service and conservation Corps, The Corps Network’s mission is to advance programs that transform young people’s lives and communities through career development, civic engagement, and conservation. Collectively, our programs serve nearly 25,000 young adults, or Corpsmembers, each year. Corps offer the opportunity for young people from diverse backgrounds to work side-by-side to improve their communities and the environment.

The Corps Network’s member organizations operate across the country, including in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, DC, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and many other places experiencing mass protests against the inexcusable death of yet another Black man at the hands of police. The death of George Floyd is not an isolated incident but rather the latest in a long and shameful list of examples of systemic racism against Black Americans and people of color.

We see our Black young people impacted by systemic racism every day, not just by the police and the justice system, but by lack of access to high quality education, good jobs, adequate health care, nutritious food, and safe places to enjoy the outdoors. The oppression of people of color – by the very systems charged with the health, wellbeing, and safety of all Americans – must stop.

As people around the world witness and engage in protests, some have recalled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement that “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Our country – specifically white Americans – need to hear the anger in recent events, educate themselves, and take action to address racism. The organization “Girl Trek” recently started their “Black History “Boot Camp” with the words of Audre Lorde from her posthumously published book Your Silence Will Not Protect You. One of the essays in this book is entitled, “Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” We realize that now is not the time for Silence. Now is the Time for Action.

Through the work of The Moving Forward Initiative, The Corps Network has looked to transform silence into language and action via educational blogs, our Town Hall discussions, our annual conference and other resources. Know that The Corps Network is committed to advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We are here for the hard work, but we realize that we will need to reach out to our friends and partners as we chart our path forward. None of us can create change alone.

This week marks the start of Great Outdoors Month. We are reminded of the healing power of nature, but we also must acknowledge that good health and access to the outdoors are more of a privilege than a right in our country. In addition to recent protests, COVID-19 (and the health and racial disparities this pandemic laid bare) is at the forefront of our minds. We want you to know that, in more ways than one, we aim to promote a healthy future for our Corps, Corpsmembers and their communities. In this moment, we stand in solidarity with the Black community and challenge our white colleagues and friends to examine their privilege and step up. We all must hold each other accountable; systematic injustice and inequality calls for systematic change. As Audre Lorde pointed out, “Your Silence Will Not Protect You.”

Mary Ellen Sprenkel
President & CEO
The Corps Network