Dear Community, Students, Parents, and Guardians,
On Friday, youth in our City rallied for peace including calling for safety from gun violence and the impacts of racism in all of its forms. It was an act of both frustration and hope, of both concern and determination organized by youth involved with the nonprofit Teen Empowerment. Many of us went, and we were impressed and moved.
Less than 24 hours later in a neighboring state, an 18-year-old white male, walked into a supermarket serving a predominantly Black community in Buffalo, New York, and methodically shot to death ten people and injured three others that we know of so far.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is investigating the shooting as a “racially motivated hate crime”. News outlets report the shooter identified himself as a white supremacist. They report that he deliberately targeted Black victims and that he himself stated that he was inspired by hateful, racist, white nationalist ideology. Of the thirteen people shot, eleven were Black.
As many of us struggle with the news of this unspeakable massacre of innocents, so many questions arise. The need is clear for a deep understanding of the root causes. We must ask why these acts of domestic terrorism are not isolated events but are continuing cycles and patterns.
We are living through a bold and unmasked rise in white nationalist propaganda and hate crimes across our nation. Open racism, antisemitism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other hate are a constant in mainstream politics. The drumbeat goes on daily as purveyors of division use TV, radio, podcasts, and social media to spew racist rants while millions watch, listen, and click. Somerville is not isolated from these forces. We are living through a rise in hate incidents and crimes right here in Somerville as well.
As institutions, we know we have much work to do to continually identify barriers to progress, disrupt them, break them down, have the hard discussions, and be ready and willing to hold ourselves accountable and affirm people’s lived experiences.
If we are to do the hard work to achieve a society that uproots racism and hatred, we must remain vigilant in our pursuit of social justice and equity. We call on our community to join in that work locally knowing that each step we take here becomes part of the force needed to stop the rising tide of hate nationally. We must all speak up.
We must also acknowledge the long-term trauma that racism and racist attacks can unleash. If you or anyone you know need mental health or emotional support in the face of this or other hate and hate crimes, please reach out for resources.
And once you feel ready, please join us in continuing on the path to progress. A good place to start is to contact the Racial and Social Justice Department at email@example.com or call or text 617-684-5060.
We are committed in Somerville to honoring the call of our youth to keep them safe from violence including the violence of systemic racism. May the victims in Buffalo rest in peace and those injured fully recover. May we honor them by pursuing the peace our youth, our community, and our nation deserve.
Mayor Katjana Ballantyne
City Council President Matt McLaughlin
Department of Racial and Social Justice Director Denise Molina Capers
School Committee Chair Andre Green
Superintendent Mary Skipper
City Resources for Individuals:
The Somerville Trauma Response Network (TRN) is available to you or anyone you know who is in need of mental health support in response to this event. Please contact TRN Coordinator Sara Skonieczny at 857-221-0942. For more information, please visit http://www.somervillema.gov/STRN.
The Somerville Public Schools crisis team is available to students and families via the schools.
Anyone can call the 24-hour Boston Emergency Services helpline team at 1-800-981-4357.
Resources for Families:
Addressing racial injustice with young children (EmbraceRace) https://www.embracerace.org/resources/something-happened-in-our-town-addressing-racial-injustice-with-young-children
Talking to your kids about racism (Unicef)
Talking to children about violence: Tips for Families and Educators (National Association of School Psychologists)
Resources for Teachers:
Age by age guide from Common Sense Media
Tips from the MGH Clay Center:
Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds | Massachusetts General Hospital
Helping children manage distress in the wake of a mass shooting-American Psychological Association