We feel like it’s worth saying again: The Zilkha Center reaffirms our dedication to the work of antiracism and stands in solidarity with others locally, across the country, and the world to condemn systemic racism and police brutality.  

We will continue to add our voice to the ever-louder chorus, and within our spheres of influence, actively work on personal, interpersonal, and policy levels to counter embedded white supremacy. As always and into the future, our goal is to transform systems and structures to create a truly more equitable, livable, and sustainable world. 

Let’s keep repeating it and use these words to inspire action within us and others: Black Lives Matter.

Pervasive systemic racism bubbles up quietly and reverberates loudly and while the calls to change the system have risen higher in the past few months, there is still pushback.  Therefore it can’t be said enough: Black Lives Matter.  Because it is incumbent upon us all to remind ourselves of this fact and focus on creating a better, more livable, more equitable world, one that pushes back to that pushback. While it would be nice to not have to remind ourselves privately and publicly about these most basic of things, it is clear that it continues to be necessary to do so.  Because of the murders of Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and recent violence against Jacob Blake and many, many more.

As a sustainability office in higher education, we recognize the modern American environmental movement as a predominantly white space.  In order for us to do this work better, we must name that, listen and learn, and do what we have the power to do to shape the work so that anti-racism is a central part of our approach to both policy and interpersonal work.  Our staff is dedicated to continuing to grab onto the richness and complexity of “sustainability” and push at the boundaries – perceived, historical, and otherwise constructed – to work towards anti-racism in our campus work, at the college beyond the bounds of our small office, and with sustainability colleagues across the country.

So what does that mean exactly?   We have begun an internal equity assessment and will be meeting with staff at OIDEI to figure out how to strengthen and formalize this process.  As we work with campus partners to choose sustainability certifications that are right for and challenge the college, we will continue to pursue certifications that define sustainability broadly and include justice and equity components, like the Living Building Challenge for building certifications and Real Food Challenge for food purchases.  In addition to ensuring that our office embeds anti-racism into its work through its policies, the ZC should equip our staff and our student interns with tools for that personal engagement work.  This will include professional development opportunities and both internal and external trainings.  Most recently our staff and interns participated in Food Solutions New England’s Racial Equity Challenge this summer.