Dear friends,

Most of us will never know what it’s like to live under a dark cloud of systemic oppression that restricts and denies access to a level of privilege that many of us take for granted. Most of us will never experience the deep-tissue weariness of always having to be extra good, extra compliant, extra everything to merit even a base level of recognition or respect.

It is beyond comprehension that black parents have to teach their children how to interact with the police to avoid being brutalized or killed. The majority of us can only imagine what it would feel like to have members of our congregation or another group of friends with shared values murdered and injured by a white supremacist.  

The depth of systemic racism is, perhaps, most appalling when we see even a small percentage of those called to protect and serve use the power given to them by our society to unjustly brutalize and kill. Nearly all of us were lost for words when we first heard George Floyd say “I can’t breathe,” knowing that it was one of the last things he would say and not the first time in recent history that a black man in police custody has said those words while being killed.

Enough is enough. Over the next weeks and months, the Arts Center will work internally and with others to identify and implement steps to strengthen our commitment to equality, inclusion, and diversity—to continue the important momentum for change that has been fueled by the events of the past weeks. We will look much more closely at what we do and say. We will listen more broadly and deeply.

That commitment is reflected in the following message of support for communities of color issued earlier this week:

“The Arts Center stands in solidarity with the black community in the fight for their lives, for their rights, and for justice. JMKAC expresses grief and outrage at the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. We condemn all acts of violence against communities of color. We recognize that we have growth to do as an institution and are committed to being a part of the work to fight racism and to challenge and dismantle structural oppression.⁠”

As Arts Center staff engages in dialogue and learning around anti-racism, we will share the resources we are utilizing here.

I invite all to reach out to me with your thoughts and comments.

Sam Gappmayer
Director, John Michael Kohler Arts Center