MDT’s Social Justice Committee
By: Eric Gubka, Training Manager
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
After the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others throughout history, social media and news outlets were ablaze with statements from businesses and organizations showing their commitment to and support of social justice and, most recently, specifically the Black Lives Matter movement. Society either praised or condemned these statements and some companies found themselves in a public relations nightmare.
MDT did not issue a statement on social media or to the press.
Instead, our Executive Leadership wanted a more long-lasting, sustained response to social justice and support of the statement “Black Lives Matter” – a “Walk the Walk,” if you will, as opposed to a “Talk the Talk.”
When I learned that this was MDT’s intent upon announcement at an all staff meeting, I enthusiastically volunteered to assist, not knowing what that assistance would look like or what I would be doing. I just knew I wanted to be a part of our response. I was moved to tears when Larry emailed me one June day and asked me to lead MDT’s efforts on this.
Some of you – maybe many of you – may ask, why you, Eric? Why is a white man leading this effort? I have been an anti-racist activist since my late teens. I have worked with many organizations that support various social justice initiatives, I have visited prisoners who were involved in social justice issues, and I’ve attended many social justice demonstrations nationwide. I was even pepper-sprayed one time at a protest against the KKK in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition, when I served as a city council member for 4 years in Keego Harbor, Michigan, I became educated on policy and budget matters for public police departments and know that when the term “Defund The Police” is stated, it does, in fact, mean to not have a police department in a town.
An internal committee of all volunteers was quickly formed and a name was decided upon – the Social Justice Committee. The committee discussed the importance of a name. Clearly our focus and impetus for coming together was due to the recent unjust murders of black people and the systemic racism surrounding them, so why not create a “Black Lives Matter” committee? We decided that, if this were to be an ongoing, sustained committee focusing on social justice issues, a broader name would be best as there are many different such issues. Our future work may involve activities around LGBTQ, LatinX, or other rights, so we did not want to close that door. But we know that right now our focus is on the Black Lives Matter cause.
A mission statement and code of conduct for the committee soon followed. Regarding goals, early on it became evident that the committee wanted to focus as much as we could on impacting individual black lives as opposed to making donations to larger organizations.
We are currently researching college scholarship opportunities with Alpha Kappa Alpha (a black sorority that one of our committee members is a part of), financial literacy programs – with the potential of partnering on this with some of our clients and other organizations – and creating educational videos for MDT staff.
To me, one of the best things about the committee is the open and safe space we have created for tough dialogue. We are having conversation about statements like All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter, about White Privilege, systemic racism, and much more. We aren’t ignoring these conversations because it makes us feel uncomfortable or because we may have to show our vulnerability, and we certainly aren’t victims of “you don’t discuss those things at the workplace.” Nope.
Committee member Susanne Harrison said it best: “We are learning how we can be better humans! Not one of us walked into this perfectly, and there are going to be discussions that make people uncomfortable, but they are necessary. If we don’t have these conversations, then we are not doing what we set out to do!”
The fact that these discussions aren’t happening everywhere is what we view as the bigger problem. We won’t hide behind our fear, or because we may say something that could be taken the wrong way. We live outside of the echo chambers of our social media walls and we listen to learn. We listen to heal and we listen to make a better world.
The Social Justice Committee members represent a diverse spectrum of MDT employees. The members are Colleen Beshara, Jonathan Daysen, Eric Dunn, Karen Geroux, Dorene Green, Susanne Harrison, Carol Kerr, Kevin Nether, Ashley Pope, Steve Prinz, Dana Rankin, Jason Sharabani, and Anthony White, and our Executive Sponsor is Gary Lee.
We would love to hear from you about what you are doing at your credit union regarding social justice, diversity, equality and inclusion. We have set up an email address email@example.com for such dialogue; please drop us a note at any time.
We will continue to update you on our activities as we move forward. Thank you for reading.
“To change the world, start with one step. However small, the first step is hardest of all.” – Dave Matthews