Black Lives Matter. It is a straightforward statement that needs to be repeated, and mirrored with our actions. More than one-third of our nation does not feel safe or valued in their own country. I cannot begin to imagine the anxiety, stress or frustration that black people have to grow up with, and live with every day of their lives. In cities across the country we are seeing the toll living in America takes on the health of black Americans. Racism IS a public health crisis.
Tensions are high in Columbus because our neighbors have been trying to get us to listen for generations and our response has been slow at best and far too often indifferent.
I empathize with the businesses impacted this weekend. And I understand that for some of the smaller businesses already hurt by the COVID shutdown, even paying an insurance deductible could be financially debilitating. I hope that our community can find ways to help these businesses without losing sight of the bigger issue: the destruction of property we are seeing is about more than the murder of George Floyd, it is about all of the senseless deaths and the result of justified and growing frustration and anger on the part of the black community.
Business and community leaders are coming together to lend their voice in support of meaningful change. And I agree with our city and county elected officials that the time for commissions and studies is over. It is time to enact reform.
I urge all of us (myself included) to turn our attention towards meaningful change, and keep it there, even if the protests quiet down. White people must listen to the black community, not just on the heels of tragedy, and include them every day, at every table and in every discussion where we work together to make our city more equitable and safe.
This week the Greater Columbus Arts Council, together with CAPA, took one small step to demonstrate how the arts can help begin to heal by launching #ArtUnitesCbus. At the Arts Council office on Long Street and at the Ohio Theatre, black, brown and white artists are working together to share messages of healing and unity. I call on Columbus businesses impacted to consider hiring artists to paint their boarded storefronts. We can help you connect with these talented creatives, please visit gcac.org/artunitescbus.
Racism in this country has had 400 years to grow. Its roots are deep and it will take all of us, coming from many angles, to dig them out. But we must persist, we must hold our institutions accountable, we must address how racism impacts poverty, unemployment, education, and healthcare as well as police violence and mass incarceration. Together we can make an impact. We must make an impact. And the time is now.
My north star is a world where no one needs to spell out the obvious: Black Lives Matter.
— Tom Katzenmeyer, connect with Tom on LinkedIn.