THE TIME FOR CHANGE IS NOW
I have marched in MLK Day parades numerous times. At my church, I have studied the corrosive effects of racism that hurt all of us. I have had a Black Lives Matter sign in my window at home for years. I have been horrified as the stories of violence against Black people have piled up. And I have kept myself distant.
The events of these past two weeks have made it clear that remaining distant is not a viable option. Not for me. Not for Verity. We can’t say that we build vibrant communities and allow racism to continue to exist. There can’t be a vision for cooperative communities who dream boldly when many are excluded from the dream.
Verity has taken positive steps in the past few years. We are an active funder/supporter of Business Impact Northwest, which trains and funds many new and existing Black-owned businesses. We made the decision to build a branch in the new Othello Square project, a deliberate decision to step out of our comfort zone and step into a community that is overwhelmingly non-white. It is not enough.
This week we have gone public with our conviction that racism has to end, that Black lives matter. Having stated that truth, now we need to live up to our name and act that truth.
Last week we began providing our employees a safe space to create an open and ongoing dialogue about race. We are working to bring in community partners that are working for social justice and equity to hold open conversations. We are gathering resources, such as how to talk to your children about race, from those partners to share with our members through social media and our website.
Building relationships with the Housing Development Consortium, the GSBA and Climate Solutions has guided our way forward in the areas of affordable housing, LGBTQ rights and climate change. We will continue to work with current partners, such as HomeSight, and seek others to help us craft our path forward to do our part to end racism. We will combine their wisdom with our strengths to finance change.
Verity has not found its political voice outside of matters directly affecting credit unions. I believe we owe it to our employees, members and communities to develop and use that voice: a voice that is aligned with and speaks for all these key stakeholders. We will work with our employees, the board and our community partners in developing and using this voice.
Finally we must truly examine ourselves. Though we can influence change out in the world, we can make change within Verity. We will be offering race equity training for all of our employees and have begun to lay the foundation for that work. We also will be considering changes to our policies and procedures to ensure that they are in alignment with our commitment to racial equity.
I want to end this letter asking for your patience, as well as your continued insistence that we do more. I ask for your stories to teach us, your forgiveness when we try but don’t get it and your persistence in demanding we do better. What I have seen in our employees, our members and our communities this past week gives me great confidence that together we can help move our communities forward in providing a more safe, just and equitable world for Black people. In doing so we make a better world for all.
With deep respect,
John Zmolek, CEO