Message from Daniel L. Lombardo, President and CEO on Racial Inequality
My grandson recently asked me why people are saying that they “don't like black people.” My grandson is 6 years old and African American.
When you consider the innocence of children, you struggle with how to even begin to explain it all – the technicalities, the decades of repression and suppression, the harsh and sometimes brutal realities of inequality and injustice prevalent in our society. You obviously cannot get into a geopolitical dialogue with a child – you have to break it all down into the simplest terms. You say things like, “They just don’t know you,” “They don’t know all your gifts and your talents,” or “If they knew you, they would value and love you as much as we do.”
Now more than ever, my family and I wonder about the future of our country. A lot of elements of our society are evolving and changing, as they very well should be. We hope that what is happening now across the world is a real transformation – one that has been LONG overdue and very much needed.
When you boil things down, all of humanity needs the same fundamental things in order to live self-fulfilled, meaningful lives: love, care, family, opportunity and education at the core. At Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, these things are at the heart of the services we provide to all those we encounter needing assistance. We do not look for color, race, religion or creed – we simply look for need.
If you consider the primary populations we serve, VOADV serves those living on the margins of society – those completely disadvantaged and have significant, oftentimes very complex needs. Whether someone is suffering from a substance use disorder, returning to society from the criminal justice system or currently experiencing homelessness, it is our role at VOADV to make their transition back to living independent, self-sufficient lives as smooth as possible.
At VOADV, we truly are defined by our extraordinary, talented staff. Some of our employees are former clients – individuals who have been there and back and know, firsthand, the challenges and struggles our clients experience daily. All of our staff work hard so that these individuals can be afforded the same privileges, opportunities and basic rights as any other human being – so that they, too, have a fighting chance to survive in our society. For me, this is something I have been advocating for my entire life. It is my calling, it is my passion… it is my vocation, in the truest sense of the word.
Looking toward the future, how can we even begin to predict how our society will change? Will we learn from the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Regis Korchinski-Paquet and countless others who have not made the headlines? Will our government officials and community leaders put in place appropriate measures and legislature to make our society more humane and sensitive to the complex needs of others? Are we going to use this time to increase opportunities, garner support for each other and gain a better understanding of humanity as a unified family, rather than viewing those who are vulnerable and struggling as mere outcasts?
It all remains to be seen.
Yet, I have been moved by how many people have come together to support one another in recent weeks. All different kinds of individuals from every race, background, religion, social class, and so on. Millions of people continue to come together, not just here in the United States but all over the world. Why? Because they all understand that something in our society has been long broken… and that something must change.
We have finally said “Enough is enough” – and this gives me hope.
We can no longer be silent or ignore certain facts about the state of our communities, states, nations or world anymore. Together, we must keep learning from one another, keep listening to each other, keep educating ourselves and keep working together to combat all forms of racial injustice.
It is time for voices to be heard and it is time to transform and redefine ourselves as a society once more.
Daniel L. Lombardo