Ali Knight, Chief Operating Officer, Fresh Lifelines for Youth

March 2020

As we are seeing through the global spread of COVID-19, the virus is infecting and affecting the human race without consideration for race, gender, class, or social status. Yet how we respond as a human race seems to be divided accordingly. Indeed, this pandemic appears to have created a new way to discriminate against certain parts of our population, which puts the most marginalized at the greatest risk.

As a justice-focused organization, we see this public health crisis as a justice issue. We will take this opportunity to advance “Justice” (with a capital “J”) in new ways to achieve our vision for tomorrow: safe, healthy communities that are thriving for all! And in that vein:

We stand for racial, economic, and healthcare justice

We stand against xenophobia

We stand against healthcare inequity

We stand against upholding the structures such as incarceration that continue to put people at risk of exposure to COVID-19

We are encouraged to see the community respond in some amazing ways but are also dismayed by some of the division and hate that is emerging during this time. In at least one of the communities FLY fights for justice, individuals being detained for low-level non-violent offenses have been released to avoid risk of infection and are able to shelter in place with their families and/or community supports. We applaud our justice system partners for their ability to pivot in a crisis; and we encourage them to do more to ensure the safety of others incarcerated. We understand the current strains on the public health and private healthcare systems, and we ask them not to forget those who already had challenges accessing healthcare and consider how this puts them at greater risk.

Finally, we are encouraged by how the community is practicing social distancing in ways that are cordial and considerate of their neighbors. But we ask members of our community to practice love and connectedness from a distance rather than seeing this as an opportunity to propagate hate and discrimination. As a member of both the great San Francisco Bay Area and the global community, we stand with all our members—including those with roots in China, Iran, Italy, and other parts of the globe—who are struggling to stem the tide of the pandemic.

During this time, we find it most helpful to double-down on our core values and beliefs. As such, we want to re-state our commitment to equity and justice even in the face of a crisis. Below is FLY’s DEI Statement:

At FLY, we will continue to embrace a diversity of identities, beliefs, thoughts, and experiences. We commit to creating a strong organizational culture of equity and inclusion in order to better serve our youth and our communities. We also commit to identifying the root causes of inequity in the education and juvenile justice systems and to helping rebuild those systems to be more effective, humane, and just.

We invite other justice crusaders to join us in reaffirming their commitment to racial, economic, and healthcare justice, and to continue to model values grounded in love, acceptance, and togetherness during a time when our communities need it most.