This is Not the Time for Silence
The San Francisco Foundation
By Fred Blackwell
17 August 2017
Fred Blackwell (MCP ‘96) is a CED alumnus, Oakland native, and the CEO of The San Francisco Foundation, one of the largest community foundations in the country that works hand-in-hand with donors, community leaders, and both public and private partners to create thriving communities throughout the Bay Area. Since joining the foundation in 2014, Mr. Blackwell has led the Foundation in a renewed commitment to social justice through an equity agenda focused on racial and economic inclusion. In his essay titled This is Not the Time for Silence, Mr. Blackwell speaks of the importance of being an active and positive force in the face of challenges to equality and love.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” This past weekend the nation witnessed white supremacists fueled by incredible hate and violence descend upon Charlottesville, Virginia. We witnessed the death of Heather Heyer, a young woman driven by her conscience to join in a peaceful protest to denounce hate. We learned of two Virginia State Police troopers who died in a helicopter crash while assisting with public safety during the violent protests by white nationalists in Charlottesville.
I cannot be silent. As a descendant of a long line of community advocates and organizers, I was exposed to the concepts of social and economic justice at a very young age. My family shared with me stories and lessons learned from the Civil Rights Movement. It is hard to imagine that those stories — about unspeakable violence and hatred, and unimaginable courage — are being repeated today. Amidst a resurgence of bigotry and white supremacy, we are witnessing an unsettling level of nostalgia for some of history’s darkest moments — Confederacy and Nazism — that we thought were long behind us. And now, in the Bay Area, white supremacists are planning rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley. In some ways, I no longer need to imagine history.
As CEO of The San Francisco Foundation, a community foundation with a history steeped in social justice, I am proud to work with our grantees, partners, and donors in addressing inequities and strengthening the rights and voices of the most vulnerable in our community. When The San Francisco Foundation embarked on an equity agenda, we did so with the understanding that advancing racial and economic equity is the defining challenge of our time.
In February, I wrote a blog post about immigration in which I said, “We are at a defining moment for our country … Where we stand will define us for generations to come.” Today, in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, the same still rings true. Where we stand will define us for generations to come.
We stand at a critical crossroads in America. For some folks, what happened in Charlottesville was fueled by racism. For others, there is a notion that one community’s gain means another community’s loss. While people will debate how we got to this moment in time, one thing is true: some people feel emboldened to foster bigotry and racism and to nurture hateful acts.
The challenges in front of us are about race, but they are also about economics and the need for greater inclusion and equity. There are no simple answers. There are no simple solutions. But all of us can take on the task of speaking up and denouncing acts of hatred. We must both attack racism and hate and the underlying issues that continue to lead to greater racial division in America.
We cannot allow our differences to tear us apart. We cannot let our country be defined by hate. We must be willing to speak out against hatred and bigotry. We have much work ahead. Each of us has a role to play. Each of us has a voice and a vote. The paths we choose will not only define us, but define our communities, and our country, for generations to come. We cannot be silent.