July 2, 2020
Thank you for sharing your story. We appreciate that it takes an immense emotional and personal toll.
We want to start by unreservedly apologizing to you. We want you to know we have heard you and it has changed our perspective.
You shared in your video that the words of your speech were altered. It simply should not have happened. You spoke about the importance of having Black voices and having people of different lived experiences at the table. Your explanation deepened our understanding about the true power of diversity. A manager who is a member of the BIPOC community or stronger BIPOC voices at our leadership table could have brought perspective of the physical and mental pressure of an anti-racism tour on you. They could have understood the weight of the topics in your speech and why speaking about these real experiences for BIPOC members needed to be there. Thank you for helping us understand this.
We most deeply apologize for not sufficiently appreciating your words and not making you feel heard or welcomed during the employee townhall in June 2019.
We recognize that we operate with an unconscious bias – both as individuals and as organizations WE Charity and ME to WE. We recognize that we have much to learn. We are sincerely committed to that learning process.
Your physical and mental well-being needs should have been met by the organization, especially while on the speaking tour. And when you shared concerns, we needed to do a better job of listening. You shared that "nothing (you) even experienced mattered". We now realize how this made it difficult for you to get the support you needed on tour.
We understand that having diversity at the table, in management, brings context to lived experiences. As we serve communities across North America, this lived experience will make us stronger and more effective.
We also recognize that our actions, even when well-intentioned, may not have been the best course. Please know that the various outreach and messages from Dr. Sanderlin to you over the past few weeks have been sincere in our collective attempts to open a dialogue. We felt that Dr. Sanderlin, as Chair of the Board, and with her specialized training in diversity and inclusion, would be able to create a positive space and facilitate an open collective conversation. This was not meant as tokenism, and we sincerely hope that it was not interpreted as any form of disrespect. Yesterday Dr. Sanderlin informed us that a friend of yours indicated that there may be an openness for us to reach out directly. Please know that we embrace this opportunity. We appreciate your perspective and understand we need to be a part of this conversation.
This is just the beginning of the work ahead of us to ensure we are an inclusive and diverse organization. We hope that dialogue will continue. We understand this movement, is in part, about really listening. If you would do so, we would greatly appreciate if you would be willing to participate in a formal process underway in the organization led by a diverse group of staff to channel learning into tangible actions.
The Diversity and Inclusion Listening Tour is inspired by the cornerstone value that personal experiences should be heard and honoured. We are currently seeking input from a wide range of voices, including current and former staff, community members overseas, youth participants, and experts in diversity and inclusion policies. The group of diverse staff as listeners and independent experts who will all assist with thoughtfully pulling from these collective experiences to shape policy to address such diverse stakeholders. Please know that there is no pressure, and we fully respect if you choose not to participate. You will see and hear more from WE about those specific actions in the days and weeks to come.
Finally, please allow us to invite you for a coffee together. The purpose would be for us to continue the process of listening. This could be now with proper physical distancing measured or when you prefer. As part of our listening process, we’ve heard from others that there is an importance of creating a human to human connection that comes from sitting together. There is absolutely no pressure, but, if interested, please know that we would embrace the conversation on a personal level.
Thank you again for sharing your words. We know that we have much to do and are committed to taking tangible actions to repair the hurt that we have caused.
Sincerely, Marc and Craig