A Message from the Executive Director
A message from Executive Director Greg Hazle regarding Boca Helping Hands' stance on the long-standing and recent racial tensions in the U.S.
Unlike most Americans, I am an American by choice. Thirty-five years ago, I chose to come to the United States from Jamaica - and eventually became an American citizen. So, my views on race relations in the U.S. are influenced by the half of my life spent living in a majority Black country; a country in which I never had to learn any of the hard lessons, or forego any of the opportunities, that my Black American brothers and sisters have had to over the four centuries that they have been a part of the American tapestry.
Both of my daughters, on the other hand, have lived all their lives as Americans. And it was their views on the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks — and the protests that followed — that have stuck in my mind. My daughters now have young Black American children: my three-year-old grandson and my six-month-old granddaughter. It broke my heart to hear both my daughters express fears for the safety of these babies. And I was left speechless when one of them asked me, “Dad: Do you still think it was worth it to move to America?”
As jarring as it was to be asked that question (especially by one of the people for whose benefit I had made the choice), it was not difficult to answer. Yes…it was definitely worth it.
But, the fact that for the first time in their lives they thought they needed to ask that question made me realize the significance of the moment we are now facing as a country. The question also forced me to do the calculus on my experiences as a Black man in America. There have been many positive aspects of our lives in America. Most satisfying is that both my daughters have been able to become highly accomplished young women, now starting families of their own. But, on the other side of the equation, I have had my own unjustifiably terrifying encounters with law enforcement, have routinely experienced the indignities of being negatively stereotyped, and now, am hearing my children worry about harm coming to their children from those sworn to protect them.
The 400-year history of systemic racial discrimination in the U.S. is indisputable, and Americans of every race and class are now exercising their constitutional right by marching in the streets of our cities, demanding changes to systems that have penalized people of color. As the leader of a community organization, I affirm that we choose to stand with those seeking change.
We are already beginning to see signs of change in policing and the criminal justice system. Yet there is much work still needed to ensure that people of color obtain equitable access to housing, education, healthcare, employment and other basic services. COVID-19 has helped expose what should have been apparent all along: There are two Americas.
As a multi-service community organization, Boca Helping Hands will continue to find ways of serving the many needs of the underserved in our community in a non-discriminatory manner. In many instances, the clients we serve are seeking our help to mitigate the effects of the inequities in our systems. Whenever possible, we will continue to advocate on behalf of those seeking greater justice and equity.
The horrific last 8 minutes and 46 seconds of Mr. Floyd’s life are a sad addition to America’s history of racial inequality. We should all choose to ensure that it is not just a continuation of an ongoing, sordid story.