Civic Hall Stands Against Racial Injustice
Updated June 5, 2020
Eleven weeks ago, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to take drastic action to protect ourselves and each other from an invisible but deadly virus. Many of us have risen to the challenge of maintaining the physical distancing needed to reduce its spread. At the same time, deep inequities in our society put many people at greater risk. Some of our leaders and institutions also failed us. And far too many have died as a result.
COVID-19 has been a harsh teacher; the lesson, as if we needed to learn it again, is that in America, the opportunity for life, liberty and happiness is unequally portioned. Not all humans are treated equally. And the events of the past week, starting with the murder of George Floyd by four police officers in Minneapolis are an urgent reminder that our country is still driven by another deadly force: racism, and particularly anti-blackness. This is unacceptable. And to be silent or complacent is to be complicit in this status quo.
It is not enough to recognize the injustice of Floyd’s murder. We should remember Breonna Taylor, murdered while sleeping in her Louisville home by officers who had the wrong address. We should remember Ahmaud Arbery, killed by white vigilantes while out for a jog on a Georgia road. Trayvon Martin. Akai Gurley. Eric Garner. Terence Crutcher. Tamir Rice. Mike Brown. Freddie Gray. Philando Castille. Alton Sterling. Rekia Boyd. Antonio Martin. Walter Scott. Jamar Clark. Aiyana Jones. Korryn Gaines. Sandra Bland. Amadou Diallou. Sean Bell. James Chaney. Andrew Goodman. Michael Schwerner. Emmet Till. This list is not comprehensive yet it is disturbingly long.
Big changes in our behavior are needed now, not just well-meaning words. It is not enough to simply condemn racism and anti-blackness; the times and our consciences demand that we be actively anti-racist.
Civic Hall was founded to help bring about a world that is more just, fair and democratic. We have much more to do to live up to these aspirations. Over the past year-and-a-half, we have worked hard internally to clarify our organizational identity. We want to equitably reflect the diverse makeup of NYC. Our goal is to become a model for the tech sector and act as a counterforce to the industry’s patterns of exclusion and inequity. (To learn more about our approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility at Civic Hall, go here.)
Our own internal efforts show us that we haven’t done enough to move the needle on these goals. We have lagged in sharing publicly what we’ve been learning, and this is the first time we have moved, as an organization, to make a statement focusing on social issues affecting marginalized communities. While we have a very diverse staff, power at Civic Hall is still centered on its all-white co-founders and leadership team, and all-white board. Our intentions have not matched our actions. We are committed to closing the gap between our verbal commitment to racial equity and these hard truths, and will have more to share about what we will do to address this in the coming days.
We also want to do more to uplift and amplify the efforts of many Civic Hall members whose work addresses the current crisis. Our mission is to increase the power and capacity of civic-minded individuals and organizations to make change in the world. So beginning now, we plan to do more to center the work of Civic Hall members, and others, who are at the forefront of this challenge.
We’d like to ask our members: How are you responding to this latest egregious example of police brutality and racist violence? What actions are you taking? Which organizations are you supporting? Please share with us in this document so that we can learn from each other and bring more attention to actions we can take in support of Black lives and against systemic racism. We’ll publish a round-up of ways for Civic Hall’s community to join the response, and ask that they do.
If there are other ways we can make space for your work (such as the hosting of a community event), we would be honored to support you however we can. We can virtually gather community, research and write, design programs, and consult with public officials. We encourage you to nominate black-led initiatives, projects, and resources for us to support. Please contact email@example.com with any ideas you may have.
This is a very critical period in our country’s history, but we still have hope that we can write a new and better chapter into the history books. We take inspiration from past generations that struggled with oppression and state-sanctioned violence against BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) and other discriminated groups, and organized movements that achieved some real changes. We have seen the impressive way in which many of us have changed our behaviors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in such a short period of time. This gives us hope that we can change our relationship to systemic, cultural, and interpersonal racism if we put in the work. Civic Hall is only at the beginning stages of this journey, but we humbly believe that real, meaningful change in our society is possible when the collective will to do so exists. It is time to summon that will.
The Team at Civic Hall
Civic Hall envisions a society that is more fair, just, and democratic.
Our mission is to build the power and capacity of civic-minded people and organizations.
Civic Hall is a non-profit center for learning, collaboration, and technology for the public good. At Civic Hall, entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, government staff, community organizers, philanthropists, software developers, data scientists and media makers come together to share knowledge and solve pressing public interest problems.
Past and Present
Founded in February 2015, Civic Hall has rapidly grown into a thriving and diverse community with over 1,000 members and 100 member organizations including many government agencies, tech companies, media leaders, civic tech leaders, academic institutions, foundations, and community-based organizations. These include the NY Attorney General’s Office, the NYC Mayor’s Office of Technology & Innovation, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, tech companies like Microsoft and Lyft; media leaders like Bloomberg and Consumer Reports; civic tech leaders like Do Something and Vote, Run, Lead; and other important civic, philanthropic and academic institutions including Columbia University, the Ford Foundation, the Omidyar Network and the NYC Veterans Alliance.
We work through three main channels:
Our 8,000 square foot collaborative community center at 118 West 22nd St., where we nurture civic entrepreneurs and engage the broader civic tech community through highly curated events, workshops and weekly get-togethers;
Our Digital Learning Center which offers specialized courses in digital skills for hundreds of nonprofit and public sector professionals;
Our Future Home | Civic Hall @ Union Square
Civic Hall @ Union Square will open in mid 2021 and will span six floors and include a collaborative community space, state-of-the-art conference and events center, and a 42,000 square foot Digital Learning Center (DLC). The DLC will include 16 classrooms to be shared among NYC’s leading technology training and job training organizations. Collectively, these organizations will help improve access to in-demand tech jobs for all New Yorkers by creating a universal entry point for tech skills training, an incubator for successful training models, and a center of excellence for the industry to build and share best practices. Learn more about Civic Hall @ Union Square.
*Civic Hall is registered as a non-profit under the name Civic Hall Labs (dba Civic Hall).