A message from Interim Executive Director, Lee Harper

By ana-maria

Dear PNA Friends and Neighbors,

It’s been a difficult few months for the PNA and our community.  First, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to rapidly adopt new practices to keep our friends and families safe.  Then, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and others ignited powerful protests in support of Black Lives Matter and brought 400 years of oppression and racial injustice into sharp focus.

And the PNA experienced a leadership change with the resignation of our executive director, Dar’Nesha Weary.  That’s a lot of change.

All of us at the PNA express our gratitude to Dar’Nesha for her strength and leadership while she was at the helm of the organization. Now, while we weather this time of uncertainty and as we seek a new leader, I have agreed to return as interim executive director.

Over the past weeks, structural racism has come to the forefront of community consciousness.  As part of our commitment to address institutional racism and bias within our own organization, our staff and leadership are digging in, reflecting, learning, and beginning the necessary work.

In the PNA 2019-2021 Strategic Framework, our first priority is “building a culture of equity and inclusion.” PNA seeks to create a community center where everyone feels welcome to participate, engage, and lead the way to an inclusive and equitable community.

Specifically, to reach our goal, we are taking several steps. We are strengthening our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work, by re-convening our committee that had temporarily stopped meeting amidst the COVID crisis.  This committee will be meeting and delivering concrete and actionable short- and long-term recommendations to the board and leadership team within the next few weeks.

We are also expanding our Breaking White Silence Project. To meet demand for actionable activities for staff, Board, and community members to participate in together, we’re increasing the number of Breaking White Silence book groups this summer and fall. These eight-week study groups increase understanding of the structural patterns of racism, with the goal of building a community of racially literate white people who can support each other’s ongoing learning and action toward the advancement of racial justice. You can learn more about this initiative here.

Through all this, we’ll seek community involvement.  We are committed to including you in our ongoing efforts to end structural racism within the organization and in the PhinneyWood community. We encourage you to reach out to us with your observations, suggestions, and insights and will be asking you to hold us accountable to these promises. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we can’t meet in person right now, but we welcome your phone calls, video meetings, and emails until face-to-face meetings are safe. Feel free to email me at [email protected] if you’d like to get in touch.

These are just the first steps. We have a long road ahead and we will do our best. We will make mistakes. We will correct and try again. This is the way forward. This is how we make change. Together, step by step.  The PNA should be a place where all members of our community feel welcome and I am grateful to be a part of getting us there. Thank you for your ongoing support, grace, and understanding as we learn and grow.

As we tackle this work, we will also continue rebuilding the PNA as we face the ongoing challenges of COVID-19. Throughout its 40-year history, the PNA has continuously grown, evolved, and adapted as the needs and characteristics of our community have changed. Never in that time has the PNA or the community it serves faced a financial challenge as severe and fundamental as this pandemic. We are so grateful to the hundreds of community members who have generously supported the PNA during this time.

Now, I am certain that with the skill and commitment of its staff, the energy of its Board, and above all, the spirit and support of its community, the PNA will once more evolve to play its role as a force that serves and holds the community together during our most difficult times.

Be safe and take care of yourselves.

Lee Harper
Interim Executive Director


*This message initially appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of The Review.