Wednesday, June 3, 2020

An Open Letter From Kathy Hopinkah Hannan

It is a very frightening time right now for so many of us across our Movement, especially those who are dealing with indescribable fear, pain, and trauma in the wake of yet another senseless killing of a Black man, George Floyd, and the civil unrest that has erupted in communities nationwide as a result.

As you know, Girl Scouts is not a political organization, but we are a HUMAN one. We are an increasingly diverse organization that stands for respect, equality, inclusion, and justice. We stand for empowering ALL girls—in every community across our nation, from every background and every ability and in every economic circumstance—to create the change they want to see in the world. Our girls continue to do incredible things and are truly making a difference. They are our beacons of hope for a better future because of their actions and their courage, confidence, and character. I am immensely proud to serve this organization that truly understands the power of girls.

In the broader community, many good people and leaders across the country are speaking up and making their voices heard in calls for justice, calm, and support, while recognizing that our country has work to do to ensure that all citizens can achieve “the American Dream.”I applaud them for doing so. However, I have heard similar messages over the years and, frankly, I am tired! I am tired of people believing that rhetoric and promises alone will create change for racial equality and social justice. It’s a start, but let’s acknowledge that without concrete bold, intentional, and sustainable actions, coupled with civic engagement, things will be slow to change.

This is a moment for us to lead by example—for the girls and families we serve. Leadership first requires the recognition of the brutal realities of our world and communities and of the pain and fear that many of our girls and their families are feeling, particularly those of color, our Black, Indigenous, and Brown girls. We must bring all of the passion we bring to our championing of the Girl Scout Movement to the push for racial justice. We simply must recognize that our country has much work to do to make “the American Dream” a reality for everyone. We must work so that those who have less power feel hope and encouragement. It is incumbent on all of us to reach out to our local communities and ensure that the world we want to see is reflected in our own social and community circles—and, critically, that our places of work and the boards we serve on reflect our communities.

Although Girl Scouts exhibits diversity as an organization, we can and should do more. To that end, let us prioritize the following, so that we can collectively accelerate and exceed our goals:

Councils must, at a minimum, reflect the diversity of their respective communities. And the composition of each of our local boards must also reflect the demographics of our communities. In addition, as leaders of our Movement, we should be asking how we serve and support all girls—whether we are doing enough—which is one way we can have a collective impact. You, I, and we have the power to make it happen.

We are a value-based organization, and we must also recommit ourselves to civic engagement and learning—attending meetings, community organizing, and taking an active part in holding each other and our leaders accountable on topics of racial equality and social justice. It’s critical that we learn the lessons of history and the many unconscious and overt ways that racism and bias manifest. There is no doubt that we must work harder to ensure that past injustices don’t continue to play out.

I know that it’s incredibly difficult right now to stay hopeful, but I remain so because my hope is coupled with action. I’m encouraged by how people of all backgrounds have been coming together to call out the racism they see and to educate each other about how racism pervades the daily lives of people of color and how ultimately it hurts everyone.

We are a proud Movement with a rich history. On behalf of the National Board and our Executive Committee, let’s continue to work together to ensure that future generations never have to face the fear and trauma that today’s generation confronts in their day-to-day lives. Let’s be bold and more intentional in our actions to create the change we want to see. Our girls and every girl deserves to flourish, and I am confident that WE know how to achieve this goal of supporting their aspirations through our commitment and actions. We understand, we listen, we engage, and, ultimately, we achieve! Every girl in this country and their families will understand that we are the organization that is committed to helping ALL girls succeed.

Yours in Girl Scouting,

Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, PhD
Chair and National President