Dear Community: Reflections from Jenique Jones

Dear WhyHunger Community,As you are all friends of WhyHunger I welcome you as my friends as well. As my friends, I need to share with you a conflict that has been stirring within me. As a Black woman, every February I find myself conflicted. Conflicted because I know that for 28 days, or 29 every fourth year, that the country will focus on Black people and our achievements. People and companies with anti-Black policies will post on social media celebrating different accomplished Black people, speak to their diversity programs, highlight their Black employees and then go back to business as usual on March 1st.

Sitting in a position of leadership at a global non-profit that is committed to advancing racial justice, this conflicted feeling has become even more pronounced. As I look out at the current landscape, I find myself deeply identifying with Martin Luther King’s sentiments in his seminal “ Letter from Birmingham Jail,” where Dr. King lamented the passivity of the white moderate, the one who “prefers a negative peace characterized by the absence of tension rather than a positive peace that results from the presence of justice.” As we consider this perspective, we cannot help but reflect on the events of 2020, a year that witnessed a powerful call for justice and equality.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic death, we saw a groundswell of activism with millions taking to the streets marching for a more just and equitable society, united under the banner of Black Lives Matter. The demand for justice echoed across the globe, a testament to the collective desire for change. Yet, as the days turned into months and now years, the headlines shifted, it appears that the urgency has waned, and the fervor for justice has subsided.

In fact, not only has it subsided, but we have also regressed. We have seen attacks on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, books by Black authors and on Black topics pulled out of schools and libraries and the credibility and capabilities of Black professionals constantly questioned. Yet, the same people who decry DEI, don’t believe students should learn about Ruby Bridges, and attacked people like Dr. Claudine Gay, will give lip service to Black history and Black people.

As the leader of an organization committed to solutions that address social, environmental, racial, and economic justice, I know that systemic change requires sustained effort. The work of dismantling injustice is not a momentary sprint but an enduring marathon. As we reflect on Dr. King’s words, we must rekindle the flame that burned so brightly in 2020. We must reignite the passion for justice and equality that brought us together, recognizing that the march is far from over. We must also call out hypocrisy and not allow for conditional and short term allyship. I say that it is no longer enough to place a “Black Lives Matter” sign in your window. It is no longer enough to highlight Black achievements in February. It is no longer enough to have a Black friend. It is no longer enough to say you are not racist, you must be anti-racist.

I now leave you with the words of one of my personal heroes, Ella Baker: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest.”