Statement from Portia Roberson, Chief Executive Officer, Focus: HOPE
June 1, 2020
Focus: HOPE Mission Statement: Recognizing the dignity and beauty of every person, we pledge intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice. And to build a metropolitan community where all people may live in freedom, harmony, trust and affection. Black and white, yellow, brown and red from Detroit and its suburbs of every economic status, national origin and religious persuasion we join in this covenant. — Adopted March 8, 1968
In this moment, when so many of us are horrified by the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, I am reminded of the reason that Focus: HOPE exists today. Detroit was still smoldering from the 1967 rebellion when a small band of people, led by Father William T. Cunningham and Eleanor M. Josaitis, pledged to unite a community that was sharply divided on racial and economic lines. Unfortunately, we continue to see this same division reflected in the numerous protests occurring throughout this country in recent days.
I have spent much of my career focused on the disparities that exist between communities. As the former director of governmental affairs and public liaison at the Department of Justice during the Obama administration, we worked with national leaders who spent every day attempting to dismantle unjust structural systems and worked closely with the Civil Rights Division to investigate and hold police departments accountable for their misconduct. As the director of CRIO at the city of Detroit, our team focused on ensuring that Detroiters, both native and new to this city would participate fully in its resurgence. As the current leader of Focus: HOPE, I am acutely aware of the needs of our communities and the way in which structural systems often make it exceptionally difficult for poor people and people of color to extricate themselves from the cycle of poverty. And as a newly appointed member of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, I recognize that ensuring civil rights protection for every community is unfinished business that we must address. The protests that we have seen over the last three days are the result of the May 25th trigger event. This is the collective response to the continued frustration, despair and brutality that many experience every day. At Focus: HOPE, we know that this is a call to action for everyone.
It is at this time, many of us are grieving the loss of family and friends as a result of the disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on communities of color.
It is at this time, we have seen over 100,000 deaths from an unseen virus.
It is at this time, we have seen over 40 million people left unemployed in the wake of this global pandemic.
It is at this time, that we see that America’s promise of equitable treatment and opportunity for all her citizens has not been realized.
Now the mission of Focus: HOPE is more important than ever. The founders of Focus: HOPE expected those who have followed would continue using intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice. We commit to continue to do this work tirelessly and unflinchingly knowing that failure is not an option.
It is at this time, we accept our charge. At Focus: HOPE, we stand with you, we stand beside you, we stand behind you.