Oakwood Community Center stands in support of the Movement for Black Lives. We recognize the systemic ways in which white supremacy has pervaded every facet of society including our own organization present and past. As a diverse group of leaders we will employ a variety of tactics to work towards a just society for all people. Sunday’s protest against unchecked police violence towards Black people is a pivotal moment for Troy, and across the country, marking a national awakening/boiling point depending on the color of one’s skin. We feel fortunate that Troy has multiple groups led by powerful leaders of color, including Justice for Dahmeek, Community United, Team Hero, to name a few, and we will look to them in the future for ways in which our organization can continue to support health & safety in our communities. We urge the Mayor and the City Council to do the same, beginning with supporting & protecting protesters on Sunday.
We make this statement from our vantage point on Hoosick St., where too often we see a lineup of cop cars in the neighborhood streets, unsure whether the police will bring safety or danger. We are less than a block away from where Edson Thevenin was killed and where Dahmeek McDonald was shot. Our census tract is one of the poorest (and that’s just those who get counted). As we open our doors every Saturday for the Food Pantry, we see the ways in which race and class, white supremacy & poverty intertwine to build a web of trauma requiring tremendous resilience and determination of our clients and neighbors.
We make this statement having a long history of struggling with the ways in which white people cling to their power and Black people and other people of color are often expected to graciously accept what is offered, knowing it is not an equal seat at the table. In 1960, Liberty Presbyterian Church, an African American congregation, lost their building to fire. At the suggestion of the Presbytery, they petitioned to merger with the all white Oakwood Presbyterian Church. After many postponements of the vote, the merger was ultimately rejected. This was devastating to Liberty Church & disappointing to Oawkood’s Pastor, a Civil Rights activist. As a compromise, the congregants from Liberty, many of whom lived in the Oakwood neighborhood, were invited to join the church as members, but their own leadership was not recognized and several white prominent congregants left. By the time Oakwood closed, what had once been an all white church, was two thirds Black. That new Presbyterian membership, the first to integrate in the region, formed what is now Oakwood Community Center.
Today our board strives to be a diverse representation of those who use the space. We commit to continue to listen to each other, to work together in our imperfection, to acknowledge our different relationships to power & white supremacy and the different ways that relationship has led to trauma, either to us and/or by us. We will strive to be a better resource to all who are involved with our space and prioritize those who are most marginalized.