A Message From The President

November 2020

I write this in the shadow of the election.  I think this is one of the most important elections that I can recall, and I’m pretty old!  It’s hard to think about anything else – no matter what happens, many people will be unhappy.  I make no bones about my support for the Biden/Harris ticket – all one has to do is drive by my house or see the back of my car.  However, I recognize that this might not be the choice of all Athena members (although I have a harder time recognizing why that’s true!), so I’m not writing this as a political editorial endorsement.

These last few years have further highlighted the issue of racial inequities and injustices for many reasons beyond political.  It is way past time for the United States to acknowledge the systemic racial injustices that Black people have faced for hundreds of years.  It is also way past time to develop antiracist policies and systemic changes to provide racial equity and justice.  That is one reason Athena’s Community Action Committee formed a subcommittee this year called Racial Equity and Justice.  Because a problem has to be recognized and acknowledged before it can be solved, that subcommittee and the CAC as a whole have focused on helping Athena members better understand the realities and feelings associated with being Black in this country, as well as our history of violence and discrimination that is most often smoothed over or not taught at all in our schools, utilizing programs like Athena Reads and Athena Shares.

The subcommittee has also undertaken to write a new position statement for Athena entitled Racial Equity and Justice.  After slight edits by the larger committee and the board, it has been approved by both the CAC and the Athena board, and will now come before the membership for approval.  It reads as follows:

The Athena Society is concerned with the systemic and structural wealth inequity, inequality and the injustices that Black people endure today, stemming from over 400 years of racism including slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow, white terror, federal policies, racist laws, voter suppression and disproportionate incarceration. The Athena Society rejects racist beliefs, behaviors, policies and practices; and embraces the development of antiracist policies and actions that ensure racial equity and justice for Black people within all spaces including, but not limited to, workplaces, neighborhoods, governing boards, courtrooms, schools, healthcare institutions, and civic arenas.

We will be sending this statement out for membership approval on November 9th. The CAC and subcommittee have worked hard on this, and I am hopeful that the membership will vote overwhelmingly in favor of its adoption.  Should you have any questions about the position statement, please feel free to contact me or CAC co-chairs, Linda Saul-Sena and Anne Strozier.

In closing but on a related subject, I want to put in a plug for the next Athena Reads.  We will be reading “Devil in the Grove,” by Gilbert King, and will discuss it on December 3.  It is a Florida story, based in nearby Lake County, that chronicles a detailed tale of racial injustice, and it won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction.  As Floridians, we should read it to be aware of this part of our history; however, an even better reason to read it is that our wonderful Programs Committee, with assistance from Nancy Vaughn, has scheduled Gilbert King himself as our speaker for the February membership meeting!  It’s quite a coup, and I know we all look forward to hearing from him personally on how he came to research and write about this particular Florida story.  So read the book!