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A coalition of Black and brown corporate executives in Massachusetts is launching a new, multi-million dollar Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund to support minority communities in the state.
Quincy Miller, President of Boston-based Eastern Bank and one of the fund's leaders, spoke with WBUR's Weekend Edition about how the fund can drive change in the wake of a nationwide civil rights movement.
Here are highlights from the interview, lightly edited for clarity.
On why Miller felt this was the right moment for the fund:
"I really believe that, in my lifetime, this moment has been the most open dialogue on race and racial equality that I have seen. It is terribly unfortunate that it's taken so many lives of Black and brown people for us to get here, but this is important because we can't let this simply be another moment. This has to be a time of real action and change, and that's really how this fund came about. A group of Black local executives coming together on a phone call on June 7 with ... the question: 'How can we use our influence within our companies to make a difference?' Pretty quickly, we came to the fact that we want to launch a fund focused on attacking systemic racism and biases within our state and within our cities ... We knew that if we could unite the companies that we work for to seed this fund, we can really get the community and the state behind this. And the big difference is [that] this is a fund led by Black and brown people to support Black and brown people in the community so that we can finally and sustainably drive change."
On the fund's mission:
"We purposely laid out the high-level mission of being broad enough to give us the opportunity and the leverage to make a change wherever that change needs to be. That is being able to uncover and dismantle systemic racism in all of its various insidious forms ... across the ... cities and towns in the Commonwealth. But what we want to do to begin this is ... focus on four pillars that we believe will help us to be able to make real meaningful change quickly. Those are: policing and criminal justice reform; health care equity, which you're seeing right in front of our eyes with the COVID pandemic; economic empowerment and youth education; and civic engagement. You look at the disparity across the education systems that we have that, in many ways, unlock that economic empowerment for Black and brown communities. That needs to be addressed as well."
On his own experience with racism:
"Well, I don't mean to generalize, but I would tell you that most black and brown people can point to countless times within their life where they wish that this [fund] existed. My earliest memory of racism was in sports at eight years old, being the brown-skinned player on a rural football team ... [from] people throughout my life looking at me with the lens of ... 'Can he be successful?' to living as a black man and driving by a police officer and getting nervous. I mean, these are fundamental things that when you grow up with melanin in your skin, you have to live through. So I guess it's hard to say, 'Is there one moment?' What I would say is if we're going to make it different for my children and the generations to come, now's the time to do that."
On the challenge of starting the fund during a pandemic
"Obviously, COVID is a challenging time, unlike anything else that we've faced in America. Black people have been facing their own pandemic since 1619, and we're going to need more than just one fund. We're gonna need more than just one group of us coming together to drive this. We are going to need a village to make a difference and to stamp out the longest social inequity that we have in this country because there can be no social justice without racial justice in America."
This segment aired on June 28, 2020.
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