Naming and Working to Change Systemic Failures

We believe that the truest form of equality can only be achieved when we have finally interrogated, abolished, and redefined the harmful policies against Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and economically marginalized communities.
We believe that appropriate access to education, public transportation, housing, and quality childcare will be the result when policy is informed by those most impacted — when lived experiences influence the thinking and decision-making of our legislature.
We believe that resources will be successfully directed to the populations that make up the bottom half of any one outcome area when leaders begin with humility in the battle of becoming anti-racist.
In the context of education in our state, many factors are at play. It begins with voting. How you vote – up and down the ballot – matters. Period.
Whether you realize it or not, BIPOC and economically marginalized communities continue to show up on the ballot each year in the form of candidates and measures that either further produce disparity or close the gap to a prosperous life.
Elected officials who represent us in the legislature are the decision-makers. It matters who is voted into office to lead the charge for a more equitable and just society for all. This extends to local officials in Tacoma, those who represent us throughout the state — governors, state superintendents, judges, sheriffs, congress — and above all, those who lead our nation.
We should never accept that a human life can be harmed based on the color of their skin in an effort to maintain comfort for some. That is why we at the Foundation for Tacoma Students are investing deeply in how we show up for our local community, our regional community partners, and even communities across the state to best understand what are the policies and structures that continue to create unsafe environments for our youth and young adults.
In July 2020, we joined a coalition of eight organizations across the state to form the Washington Cradle to Career Advocacy Network. Our collective work aims to strengthen each of our community’s capacity to transform political structures in favor of kids and families. This statewide effort reflects much of what we have built at home over the last two years with the Graduate Tacoma Advocacy Network. We know that collaboration between our respective communities, institutions, and community leaders is a necessary condition for the shifts in power and policy necessary to create upward mobility for our most marginalized communities. We are asking, listening, and learning how to best develop policy agendas that ultimately moves our community to becoming a more equitable society for young people to live, work, and play.
The collective work of the Graduate Tacoma community was recently highlighted nationally in an article by Education First, Tacoma Refuses to Lose. In this piece, we are reminded of Tacoma’s history of oppression as we continue to advance our commitment to equity of opportunity for students of color in a renewed fight against racial oppression and violence. We refuse to lose more generations of color to racist systems.
As we plan for an historic legislative session, starting first with an historic election, I hope this letter reaches you. That you join the conversation. Once our votes are counted, we will need your voice to hold our electeds accountable. The 2021 Legislative Session will be held entirely virtual due to COVID-19, and we see this as a silver lining that will allow wider participation and more opportunity to elevate the diverse stories, experiences, and needs of the Tacoma-Pierce County region. We each have a role in naming and working to change systemic failures.

Tafona Ervin, Ed. D | Executive Director
Foundation for Tacoma Students