When George Floyd gasped, “I can’t breathe,” he spoke out for all Black Lives and communities of color, and with his last breath jarringly awakened our entire country to the need for immediate action to end racist violence and injustice. For none of us can fully breathe until there is freedom, suffrage, food, housing, education, jobs and health care that all can access.

Our country’s historic and systemic racism has ensured that Black Lives and communities of color haven’t mattered to everyone—that must change. Now. 

As a nation, we must dismantle systemic racism.

When racist violence occurs, we must hold perpetrators accountable.

We must end food deserts and housing insecurity.

We must ensure health, education, economic and social equity.

We must make addiction and mental health services accessible to all. 

Our leaders must represent ALL of us.

As individuals, we must all speak out to end violence against Black, Indigenous and people of color. We must stand with demonstrators and hold ourselves accountable. And we must vote to remove those who condone this violence.

As an organization committed to serving children, adults and families struggling with addiction and mental illness, LifeWorks NW strives to create a culture of inclusion, safety and caring—but that isn’t enough.  We must escalate our fight against racism, speaking out, listening to understand, making needed changes and treating each person we encounter with the same fairness, dignity and respect that we expect for ourselves.   We must do a better job of ensuring our staff reflects our communities. This has long been a key priority, and one we’ve greatly advanced; however, we must continue to strive for greater diversity across our staff and especially our leadership.  We want all to feel welcome, honored, understood and loved here.

Whatever it takes.  At LifeWorks NW, we commit to having the hard conversations—the ones about white privilege and the need for self-examination, and about justifiable anger by people of color. We must demonstrate our willingness to listen, create platforms where we can learn and truly hear what people whose lives are different from our own have to say. Our change must start within. As Michelle Obama wrote: “It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.”

We must all work together to end systemic racism and begin to heal our people and our country. At LifeWorks NW, we commit to make these changes with every breath we take.

Mary Monnat, CEO, LifeWorks NW