At the Boys and Girls Club of the Bemidji Area, we empathize and grieve with you in the sorrow and anger that many of you feel by the death of George Floyd and of so many others.

In the face of on-going civil unrest, we are reminded that our nation has a long history of racial disparities. We know our children are watching us. We are their mentors and role models. We believe it is critical that we listen, speak up and take action.

Our children, especially our children of color, are counting on us. They need to know their safety and dignity is important to us.

Our pledge at the Boys and Girls Club of the Bemidji Area is to work with community partners and with Boys and Girls Club of America in asking how we can better address racism in the lives of our children and their families. Our club enrollment is diverse without a single racial or ethnic group making up a majority of club membership based on self-identification.

We advocate for all youth in helping them grow into responsible and caring citizens. We believe all children deserve recognition as a valued member of our communities. We stand against discrimination just as we stand against bullying. We have zero tolerance. We believe there is no room for the fear and hatred of racism in the hearts of responsible and caring citizens.

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We are committed to working with professional partners who can help us create age-appropriate activities for our club members to safely explore racism, oppression and what it means to be a responsible and caring citizen. We know children are resilient, brave and imaginative. When given safe space for open dialogues, they will lead us. We are ready to listen and respond to our club members, their families and our community.

We believe we have a responsibility to make sure our club stands up for greater equity and social justice in our community and our Nation. All children, regardless of the color of their skin, deserve to live safely and securely.

Andrea Kent, executive director, on behalf of the Board of Directors and Staff of the Boys and Girls Club of the Bemidji Area.