PHP Letter to the Community on Recent Protests and Black Lives Matter

June 12, 2020

Dear Community Members:

Today, and for the last 27 years, People Helping People (PHP) has stood with and will continue to stand up for our community members who are marginalized, underrepresented in the board rooms and chambers of government, and continue to face inequities in school, at work, in health care, and housing. Many of these individuals are our neighbors who fill lower paid service jobs and who because of economic necessity have continued to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This economic necessity, together with limited or no access to non-emergency healthcare resulted in substantially higher rates of infection and death from COVID-19 for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) than for the general population.

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officers is just one more incident in a long history dating back four hundred years, of inexcusable violence against Black Americans under the cloak of authority, most recently punctuated by the also unnecessary deaths of Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, and many others.

In nearly every generation since the turn of the twentieth century, protests have ensued subsequent to horrific violence against Black Americans.  These incidents ended with promises for change but our history and current events shows few substantial improvements have been made with the exception of voting and civil rights acts of the 1960s albeit there have been numerous actions in the past 10 years to undermine those hard won rights.

There have been many before us that have spoken and written more eloquently about George Floyd, the others who died at the hands of law enforcement, the history of and systemic bias and violence against Black Americans, and why Black Lives Matter.  That said, we believe that actions speak louder than words. In addition, we must not get lost in attacking symptoms of systemic issues.  For example, will the elimination of the choke hold satisfy our desire for change in a law enforcement system that continues to train its officers to use it despite having less dangerous methods of non-lethal restraint available?  Let’s not lose focus on the systemic changes we are demanding.

PHP is a small non-profit organization in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, California.  Our formal mission includes addressing basic needs, furnishing family support services and pledging to “act as a catalyst for positive community change.” Over the years, we have been successful at helping individuals meet their immediate day to day needs but we have also learned that over the long term, “self-sufficiency” will be determined by access to a good education, quality affordable housing, healthcare, and economic opportunities. To secure the needed access, PHP has, over the past few years, focused more attention on building a more inclusive and welcoming community that stands up against racism and stands for justice and equity. We have been a prime contributor in starting and supporting the local organization INCLUSION SYV that is promoting inclusion, diversity, and equality by   advocating directly with local schools for equitable treatment of all students, creation of a safe and supportive environment, and academic support services to close the achievement gap.

Together with INCLUSION SYV, we are leading conversations about the implementation of anti-bias curriculum in our schools. At the local governmental level, we advocate in the halls of our County and cities for the development of quality housing available to individuals and families at all income levels together with the availability of health insurance and healthcare at economical prices that encourage use and prevention.

We encourage everyone in our community to continue the conversation about and stand for what is just and equitable treatment.  More importantly, we encourage you to be an active participant in doing the work to make the changes that will create a community that is more diverse and inclusive, and that embraces equal treatment and equity. Please join us now and partner with PHP and its foundations, local governmental agencies, sponsors, and individual donors who support our work to make a positive impact and to change lives for the better in the Santa Ynez Valley, Los Alamos, and immediate area.

Francisca Escobar                             Dean Palius
President of the Board, PHP             Chief Executive Officer, PHP