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Black Lives Matter: Statement from Eleanor Health’s Co-Founders and Executive Team

Corbin Petro
Corbin Petro

June 1, 2020

cindy

This letter was sent to all Eleanor Health employees on May 31, 2020.

Dear Eleanor Health Team Members,

As your Co-Founding and Executive Leadership Team, responsible for embodying the culture, compassion and whole-person values of #TheEleanorWay, we are writing this letter to recognize and validate the pain that our Black community is experiencing acutely as a result of the false 911 call against Christian Cooper and the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd; and chronically as a result of pervasive systemic racism. While we know the pain of police brutality and racism is shared among all people, we also know that a Black man is three times more likely to be killed during a police encounter, than a white man – just one statistic that represents the disproportionate impact to Black communities.  We know that traditional corporate cultures do not create space for meaningful dialog about racism and systemic inequity, often instead, continuing work as usual as if many of us are not bleeding from the wounds of current and historical events.  At Eleanor Health, we commit to be different.  We commit to support you, to raise our voices, to create an anti-racism culture, to let you know you don’t have to hide your pain at work and to truly care for you as a whole person.

From Corbin: Over the weekend, the founding and executive team spent a lot of time discussing racism, what we could do, and checking in on one another. Specifically, I wrote Nzinga to see how she was doing and ask, as a white woman, what I could do, knowing she must be feeling incredible pain, hurt, and fear. As leaders, it’s important that we make sure our teams feel safe – both physically and to be open and honest about what they are feeling – and to create a space for open dialogue.  As an organization, we must focus on being anti-racism both for our teams and for our communities. We will be opening up our All Hands meeting on Tuesday to let people share what they are feeling, and offer ideas on what we can do to act. We hope this will be the start of an ongoing discussion focused on healing and understanding.

From Nzinga: As a Black woman, daughter of a Black man, wife of a Black husband, mother of two Black sons who at 13 and 14 years old, are no longer seen by whites and police as cute little boys, but rather as scary Black men, this is personal.  I know firsthand what it means to be terrified for my husband and sons’ lives and outraged in my personal life, but asked to conduct business as usual in my professional life.  We care too deeply about you, to ask the same at Eleanor Health.  A core part of our identity is advocacy, equity and justice.  We must apply those core values not only on behalf of the members we serve, but for you, our Eleanor Health team members.

From Michael: I can’t pretend to know what members of the Black community are feeling right now. I won’t ever experience the confusion, fear or anger of having to navigate a world that has so much institutional bias to fight, let alone have to deal with the individual cases of prejudice and hate. What I can do, however, is fully commit to appreciating the challenges you face and to offer my support by fully embracing anti-racism. The challenge is that racism isn’t always obvious or intentional, especially for those who haven’t experienced its effects on a personal level. So, we’re going to have to tackle this together. It won’t always be easy – I know that I like many still have much to learn and there will likely be plenty of mistakes and forgiveness required along the way. Also, there is no real endpoint to this effort so long a racism persists in our society. That said, rather than be discouraged, I see this as another opportunity for us to distinguish ourselves as company. If there is one thing that sets us apart at Eleanor, it is our shared commitment at all levels to take on what makes others uncomfortable and an unwillingness to settle for the status quo when change is needed.

From Srishti: Compassion is at our core at Eleanor, and we see the pain of our team members, of our community members, of our society, and yet it persists. Breonna Taylor was killed in her Louisville home, and Christian Cooper was subjected to a dangerous accusation and 911 call in his favorite Manhattan park. These are both places I call home. These are both communities meant to be progressive and thoughtful, and yet the most unjust reflection of human judgement and institutions has reared its ugly head: racism. We must counteract, we must speak up, and we must continue growing our capacity to do so.

In the coming weeks, we hope to provide opportunities to have real conversations and to share your concerns and feelings.

A very common question is What Can We Do?  In the words of Ijeoma Oluo, the beauty of anti-racism is that it does not require us to be free of racism, but rather to fight it wherever we see it, even in ourselves.  The first step is to recognize we have a problem and to overcome the barrier and stigma of talking about it, so that we can be of support to each other.

  • Process your feelings:  Our check in rituals must be real.  When you check in this week, tell us truly how you are doing and know that you can be honest about what you need from your colleagues. Know that you do not have to hide your pain, your fear, your anger. Eleanor Health also has resources that you can access.

  • Create and embody inclusivity: We aim to create an environment where different perspectives and points of view are not just tolerated, but encouraged. Practice inclusivity by actively reaching out and celebrate it wherever you see it being practiced by others.

  • Speak up: if you experience or witness actions that go against our culture of inclusivity, say something. Ask questions and raise awareness to bias – silence condones discrimination. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. 

  • Be part of the ongoing conversation: overcoming systemic barriers like racism requires us to continuously strive for deeper understanding of ourselves, our teammates and our community members and the conditions impacting their lives. To provide a platform for achieving that understanding, we are initiating an open discussion series to tackle complex questions through honest dialogue in a safe forum. These voluntary facilitated sessions will be held quarterly and will provide the opportunity to explore emotions and perspectives related to some of the difficult topics that impact our lives but that people don’t typically like to address in public.

  • Educate and grow ourselves: Srishti highlighted the work of Ibram X. Kendi as being particularly informative to her, and invited us all to join in using his recent An Antiracist Reading List as a helpful tool on this continued growth. Eleanor Health is committed to this growth and is offering to reimburse for the cost of one of these or other educational books for anyone on our team who wants to read one.

We commit to be different at Eleanor Health.  We commit to condemn racism wherever we see it – even when it is in ourselves. We commit to raise our voices in advocacy for others to do the same.  We commit to be anti-racist.  We commit to care for the whole person including racism-based wounds, and that starts with us raising our voices for you.

Please reach out to us for any support you need and with any ideas you have for how we at Eleanor Health, can be part of the solution on this painful journey to healing.

Yours in solidarity,

Corbin, Nzinga, Srishti and Michael

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