Richard Barth's Weekly Thoughts: U.S. Capitol Lockdown

ByRichard Barth, KIPP Foundation CEO

Good afternoon Team & Family,

I want to begin with what we witnessed yesterday at the U.S. Capitol – blatant white supremacy in action being incited by our elected leaders. It was a shameful attack on our democracy after fair and free elections. It was a mob attempting to block the democratic, peaceful transfer of power.

And it was more than that. As events unfolded yesterday afternoon, we were all bearing witness, again, to what our BIPOC colleagues have pointed out to us repeatedly.  That peaceful protests in support of the rights of Black and Brown lives – including many this year – are met with overwhelming force while angry white mobs are barely challenged. To constantly bear witness to this injustice is traumatic and painful for us all but particularly for our BIPOC colleagues, students, and their families.

What happened in our nation’s capital is a painful reminder of how racism flows through our systems and structures. This summer I was in Washington D.C. helping my eldest son move in his new apartment as Black Lives Matter protests were being held across the city, and we saw an army truck roll by. Soldiers with automatic weapons were visible. A few minutes later we saw a tank. And then another tank. We were more than half a mile from the White House, but the perimeter had been set, and the message clear. Don’t even think about doing something disruptive. Just a few months later a mob was able to easily get inside our nation’s Capital and force members of Congress to evacuate.

We must continue to confront the ugly realities of the deep divisions in our country; and stand with and for our students and families in these moments, and always. Our mission of building a more just world has never mattered more.

As you process the events of yesterday and share with your students, I encourage you to lean on your lifelines.

And let us all send our support to our DC Team and Family who had to close their campuses yesterday and today to ensure that everyone was safe.

I want to close by sharing part of why I am hopeful that change is possible – for us, for our kids and for our country. I woke up yesterday inspired by the record turnout of new voters – including KIPP staff, students and alumni — who exercised their right to vote in Georgia in the elections and runoffs. Our Atlanta Team and Family rallied to get out the vote for months, holding block parties and providing information to the community. KIPP Metro Atlanta seniors eligible to vote exercised this right for the first time so their voices were heard.

If the election in Georgia has taught us anything, is that we are not powerless to change the outcome of history.

As we process yesterday, we must not lose sight of the monumental win represented in Rev. Raphael Warnock’s victory. A Baptist pastor, who has served at the same Atlanta church where Dr. King once preached, is the first Black senator in Georgia, a barrier that has significant meaning in American politics. In his victory speech Rev. Warnock paid tribute to the sacrifices his own family made to rewrite history. “The 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” Warnock said in his address. “The improbable journey that led me to this place in this historic moment in America could only happen here.”

And as educators, we must ensure that our students know that they can be agents of change, watering the seeds of hope that we have yet to see bloom in full.

In the words of a team member who lives blocks away from the U.S. Capitol and had to stay inside for safety, “Hate can’t win in America like this today.” We won’t let it. Thank you, Team and Family, for working together with our families and communities to build a more just world.

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