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"A Pandemic Upon a Pandemic:" A Statement on Black Lives Matter


By: Eric Levine, CEO

"A Pandemic Upon a Pandemic:" A Statement on Black Lives Matter

Photo: AFCU CFO Kevin Mietlicki (left) during the March 4 George Floyd protest in Ithaca, NY June 3, 2020 Photo/Robyn Wishna 2020 We Are Ithaca

Dear Members and Our Community at Large,
As our nation and community remembers the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, and so many other countless black lives lost at the hands of police officers or vigilante white mobs in this country, we know that we must move ever so vigorously into decisive action. We must work tirelessly to end the history of severe injustices against black, brown, and indigenous people. White people, in particular, must work tirelessly to undo systemic racism, white supremacy, marginalization, microaggressions, and the historic oppressions that have robbed countless black people of their livelihoods, legacies, and lives – forever impacting generations of families, neighborhoods, and communities.
Racism, systemic oppression, and structural forms of embedded institutional racism are issues we cannot and will not remain silent about.  Silence should have never been acceptable, and it will not be moving forward. We have much work to do. That work continued this week in Ithaca when several Alternatives Federal Credit Union staff members and I attended a peaceful protest on police brutality and systemic oppression.
Listening, learning, and changing the system are critical next steps, and we welcome your comments about how we can better serve the black and brown members of our communities at large. 
Roger Ferguson, the CEO of TIAA, said recently, “Personally, I am outraged by the recent incidents of racism, violence, and police brutality against members of the African American community… incidents like this bring to light the fear, inequality and concerns of racism that still pose a threat to our humanity.” The protests here and around the country and world bring into sharp focus the intolerable, yet repeated human rights violations against black and brown people.  They also shine a light on the disproportionate and life-threatening public health crisis that is COVID-19, particularly for Black, Brown, Indigenous, and intersectionally-marginalized communities.
Racism is just not institutionalized in our criminal justice system, but in every fabric, institution, place, and part of American life, including our medical institutions. (Read the Vox article here). Recent data shows that the Covid-19 mortality rate for Black Americans is about 2.4 times higher than for whites. Black people have also been less likely to be referred for Covid-19 testing and medical care, among other injustices. 
Our Commitment to Social and Economic Justice

Our Community Development Credit Union exists to promote social and economic justice and to create pathways to success for people with less means, income, and access.  We also know that deep listening, recognizing our blind spots, and continuous improvement are the building blocks for an enduring foundation.
We’ve done much in our 41 years of existence, but we have much more work to do. I’m committed to doing more to make our mission a reality for even more black people and by extension, all our immigrant communities, and communities of color.
Hope and Action
Even though this is all terribly discouraging, I remind myself how important hope is. The devotion of Alternatives’ Board, staff, and members to our mission gives me hope every day. At Alternatives Federal Credit Union, we have the privilege and honor to work with many people that have been left out of the narrative by mainstream financial institutions.   This is the core of our mission, our most vital work.
Many people ask, “What can we do? How can we learn more?"

Many of our staff have been reading “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, a book group led by our Underserved Task Force (UTF). 
Our friends at Cooperative Federal Credit Union in Syracuse are suggesting the book: “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” by Robin DiAngelo, and I’m going to be advocating the same. 
I’m also reading toolkits and roadmaps from The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education’s "New Era on Public Safety," report on “groundbreaking tools to increase trust, fairness, justice, and mutual respect between police departments and the communities they serve.
How Can We Better Serve Black People?
With all this in mind, it’s important that we ask our black and brown members of color:  Where have we failed to meet your expectations? How can we serve you better?
I’ll be reaching out to various community groups led by black people and people of color to extend my support. I stand ready to learn, listen deeply, and act.
Thank you for all you are doing to make our world a better place.  I look forward to our continued conversations and feedback.
Eric Levine, CEO

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