Black Lives Matter
The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Charleena Lyles, Manuel Ellis, Rayshard Brooks — as well as the experiences of birders J. Drew Lanham and Christian Cooper — highlight the relentless violence, adversity, and racial injustice faced by Black members of our communities.
North Cascades Institute is a primarily white-led organization. We teach on public lands that have a long legacy of racism, violence, displacement and loss of tenured land of Indigenous People. Our fields of environmental education and conservation have centered white people and white privilege and lack diversity as a result of the racist threads of our history.
We have committed to look more carefully at inequities that exist within North Cascades Institute and our fields, and to confront our role in a system that generates institutional racism, white privilege and injustice. For the past seven years, we have been working to center equity, access and belonging in our programs and operations, to diversify our staff and board, and ensure that Black, Indigenous, and people of color shape our work in the community. We recognize we have fallen short and that there is much more work to do.
It is our responsibility as educators to actively welcome and create space for diverse voices and perspectives about ways of spending time outdoors. We believe that shared experiences in nature strengthen communities — and acknowledge that those shared experiences cannot be created without addressing the historical and continuing racism and systemic oppression of Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
We commit to doing more to specifically address anti-Black bias and anti-Black racism in all its forms. The threat and history of violence against Black people extends from cities and towns to rural areas, public lands and wild spaces where we do most of our work. We further commit to learning from and incorporating the histories, knowledges, contributions, and resilience of Black communities.
We understand that actions speak louder than words. We will use the privileges, platform, and resources of our organization to uplift Black-led voices and organizations in our community and in our field who are working to dismantle racist structures and to make nature a healing and welcoming place for all. We commit to transparency in our efforts to dismantle systemic inequalities within North Cascades Institute, environmental education and conservation.
We stand humbled within the “fierce urgency of now” in solidarity with those fighting for justice, equity and belonging.
p.s. I’m grateful to those who helped influence this post, including Equity Diversity and Inclusion committee members Carter McBride, Gerry Cook, Maureen Ryan, SuJ’n Chon, Julie Stone, Calvin Laatsch, Iris Maute-Gibson, Jeff Giesen, Amy Brown, and Codi Hamblin—and the team that volunteered to to write it: Christian Martin, Maureen Ryan, SuJ’n Chon, Ellesha Gasperini, Imara White, and Cara Stoddard.
Thank you, Saul, for your refreshingly candid reflection, your vision, and statement of intention. You are a true leader.
Kudos also to your Board, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee
members and staff.
Really glad to see that you are jumping into this. It’s hard work and tough to turn the light inward, but recognition is always a key early step. I’m not an expert, but getting staff from communities outside the status quo really helps to add perspective. Hope you have success. You have a great start.