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VIPS Stands With Black Lives

Today is the celebration of Juneteenth, which is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is a day filled with reflection, renewal and pride. It is a moment in time taken to appreciate the African-American experience. It is inclusive of all races, ethnicities and nationalities– as nothing is more comforting than the hand of a friend.

At VIPS, we stand for justice being delivered to all people regardless of race, ethnicity, capabilities, needs or gender identity.

Let our voices be heard; Black Lives Matter to us.

I recently shared an internal communication to all of our VIPS team members. In that message, I said that I truly care about ALL people and that if someone is a member of the VIPS team–then they should, too. We will not stand for any type of discrimination at VIPS. For over 35 years, we have served a marginalized population of children, but it needs to be said out loud to our current and past families: VIPS is a safe place for you. We believe in every child’s potential–no matter the color of his or her skin. But we recognize it’s time for us to do more–not just individually as employees of VIPS, but collectively, as an organization that is committed to doing just as African-American author, James Bladwin, once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Breonna Taylor is a name you should know by now. She was a black woman who was killed in her own apartment at the hands of police and in our very own Louisville community. Breonna Taylor was actually a Louisville paramedic who put her own life on the line in the midst of a pandemic to help others. Breonna Taylor was just 26 years old. Her death, while a tragedy, couldn’t have prepared the world for the devastating killing of George Floyd. Floyd’s death brought the world’s attention to an urgent disease that has been plaguing our country for over 400 years and that is systemic racism. Sadly, Ahmaud Arbery is also another casualty of police brutality against unarmed black men. How many more people in our black communities have to suffer as a result of our complacency and inaction?

I recognize that there are so many people better equipped to discuss the depth of this issue than I, but what I know for sure is that all people need to come together to reduce the disparity. We need not be afraid to say we are fed up with injustice and inequality on behalf of all citizens of our communities, but especially those of color. This is a time of great national upheaval, which could lead to great change and I know together we can navigate this passage to open water.

In the coming weeks and months, we will take actionable steps to live by the words we shared here. Through podcasts, books and webinars, we will be joining as one VIPS team to educate ourselves on systemic racism and discuss it as a group. We will look at ways to make our boards and staff members in our three locations more inclusive and diverse. In the future, we also hope to create partnerships with nonprofit organizations that serve underserved communities and show our support through volunteerism, as well. We will be the first to admit that this change will not happen overnight, but we are committed as an agency to learn, listen and reflect every day–and if we get something wrong, we ask for grace as we improve and wisdom to help us learn to do better. If you have ideas or suggestions of ways we can do that, please know we’d love to hear from you. We stand with our Black community.

Thank you for joining us in this important journey to equity and justice.

Diane Nelson
Executive Director
Visually Impaired Preschool Services

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