A year after George Floyd’s murder, white leaders like me still have plenty of work to do on racial justice.

One year ago this week, people across the world stared in horror at the video of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until he died.  For some of us, horror at this murder on video was paired with shock. For others, including many people of color I know, the video was far from shocking or surprising. It was terribly sad, but it was also far too familiar.

As the leader of an organization committed to racial equity, I have long sought to be an ally on the path to racial justice in our city and our country. But this last year has taught me that allyship isn’t enough. The word “ally” can mean a lot of things, but I have learned that it doesn’t immediately suggest action and sacrifice. I’ve heard from BIPOC friends and colleagues that how white people like myself can really help is to become accomplices — by taking substantive action, and making real sacrifices, in the pursuit of racial equity. 

My journey toward action on racial justice started late in life — I grew up in a very white community, largely unaware of the privilege that accompanied just about every breath I took — my home, my school, my vacations, and access to adults who had the time and capacity to invest in my future. In college, I started to awaken to my privilege and to the ways that the systems of power in our country upheld and exacerbated centuries-old oppression. Relationships with people of color, and my work at Camp Harbor View over the last 14 years have played a central role in my deepening understanding of systemic racism. I’ll never feel even a sliver of the pain and generational trauma that people of color feel, but I’ll also never go back to a place of ignorance. 

These days, I’m doing my best to listen and learn from BIPOC individuals of all ages. I’m deeply indebted to friends and mentors — especially Black women — who are helping me understand more about lived experience in our city and our country for people of color and other folks whose voices have been marginalized for generations. 

But I’m also committed to go beyond listening and learning. If we read the work of Dr. Ibram Kendi and Isabel Wilkerson and go back to our lives without making significant changes, we can’t call ourselves allies or accomplices. We have to act. 

So I’m committing myself to focus on five key actions for racial justice. I may never fully arrive at the destination, but I’ll work at getting better and doing more every day, and every year. And I’m calling on white people — especially those who lead organizations, teams, and companies — to join me. 

Five ways white leaders can take action for racial justice: 

  1. Listen — The first step to good listening is showing up. Be present for everyone in your life, and especially people whose voices have traditionally been marginalized. If you build trust and invest in relationships, people will tell you what they’re feeling and you can start to find places where you might be able to partner.
  2. Know when to speak up and when to step back — Most white leaders, myself included, would probably do well to talk less. Center the voices of Black women and other BIPOC folks in the rooms where decisions get made. But I’m not giving you a pass to stay quiet, either. You have power, use it by speaking up and using your platform to advance systemic changes that bring about equity. Finding the balance isn’t easy. I’m sure I often get it wrong, but I’m committed to keep trying. (And I’m lucky to have at least a few relationships where BIPOC folks tell me when they need me to lead, when they need me to follow, and when I should step aside).
  3. Hire, promote, and trust people of color For the white folks out there who run organizations, I urge you to hire more people of color. Boston is 53% people of color. Is your leadership team more than half people of color? We’re not there yet at Camp Harbor View, but we’re committed to working on it. If you’re thinking the problem is a pipeline of talent, you’re either not recruiting in the right places or you haven’t built the trust for people to want to work for you.
  4. Give something up — If we are truly invested in pursuing racial equity, we must be willing to give up some of the power we have. Think of it this way, do you want your legacy to be that you held power throughout your career and life or that you made a significant (and selfless) contribution to a more equitable Boston?
  5. Commit to accountability — Make a plan for what you’d like to accomplish and share it with someone. It might be a friend or colleague. Or — even better — maybe you’ll publish the plan for your organization on your website. For me, writing this post is a step on that path. I’m committed to moving forward on these steps every week, and I’m putting this out there so you’ll hold me accountable.

Are you ready to join me in this work?

Committing to true learning and action means being vulnerable. I have put my foot in my mouth more than once in conversations about racial justice — it doesn’t feel great, but in retrospect I’m usually proud that I tried, that I spoke up and used my platform. (Sometimes I look back and wish I had just shut up and let BIPOC folks speak)

I’m writing today not to pat myself on the back for trying to be “woke” or for being “on a journey.” I’m doing it because if white leaders like me don’t make a commitment to take real action, we’ll fail to move the needle on racial justice — even a little bit — in our lifetimes. We have a real opportunity right now. The Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 were the largest demonstrations in American history. Cities, states, and the federal government are passing significant reforms to protect Black lives and create more equity for BIPOC folks. Some corporations and nonprofits are making real systemic changes that will impact thousands of lives (others are getting better at window dressing). 

I’m ready to keep working on this. It’s a matter of life and death for my friends, my community, and for me. Are you with me?

A Statement on the Attack at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021

We’d like to start by vehemently condemning the events that took place yesterday in our nation’s capital. The terror brought forth by a group of radicalized Americans was an attack on both our democratic institutions and our values. January 6, 2021 will be remembered as a dark day in American history, but one that we hope will serve as a starting point to bring about the kind of change that will improve the community, nation, and world around us.

Our work at Camp Harbor View is about partnering with young people and their families to bring about access and opportunity. In this uncertain and, at times, chaotic world, we remain committed to being a source of consistency and support for the young people, families, and communities we partner with. We recognize and acknowledge the pain and tumult that yesterday’s events sparked for many in our community. We stand as committed as ever to the work ahead – to listening, advocating, healing, and recovering.

Yesterday does not represent the America that we want for ourselves or our children. As we move forward in the days, months, and years ahead, we hope that the work brings about a more kind, just, and equitable country.

Camp Harbor Views

On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, Camp Harbor Views – a free online experience for families, supporters, and champions of our mission – celebrated the resiliency of our community and shared our views on the past, present, and future of the organization.

Hosted by Jenny Johnson of NESN’s Dining Playbook and Camp Harbor View’s Advisory Council, it was an evening full of surprises. Over 700 attendees heard from organization leaders, champions, and a few special guests sharing stories of joy, hope, and the community that made it all possible. The celebration was capped off with four impressive Leaders in Training sharing their 2020 experiences and why they’re hopeful for the future.

Watch the evening’s program from start to finish below to hear more young leaders share their perspectives.  We promise it will leave you energized and inspired.

Camp Harbor View is made possible by the generous support of donors. We hope you’re inspired to continue to invest in the future of Boston with us. Please consider donating to support our mission and share the magic of Camp Harbor View with family, friends, and fellow Bostonians by following us on social media. Thank you for being a part of this community.

Celebrate #BostonBlackHistory With Us

We’re excited to continue #BostonBlackHistory this February in celebration of Black History Month, posting stories on the legacy of Black history in our wonderful and culturally rich city across our social media channels and encouraging everyone in Boston to join the conversation by sharing stories of their own.

Leaders in Training in our program helped brainstorm and develop the stories we’re telling. History matters and representation matters – and through this project we seek to highlight the great diversity and character of the city of Boston.

Here are just a few of our favorites from the stories told by teens in our program and by members of this community so far. Do you have one to add? Post it to your social channels with the hashtag #BostonBlackHistory or send it our way via email at info@campharborview.org or Instagram @campharborview. Please join us in raising awareness of these important stories.

#BostonBlackHistory posts

#BostonBlackHistory posts

Camp Harbor View seeks to impact racial & economic inequality in Boston

At Camp Harbor View, we often ask ourselves if we’re doing enough. Are we doing enough for our campers, Leaders in Training and staff? Are we doing enough for the families of the youth we serve?  About six months ago, we decided that the answer to the last of those important questions was “NO.”

When the Boston Globe published its recent series on racial income disparity in Boston, one of the stunning statistics shared was that the average net worth of families of color in the city is $8.00.  That’s not a typo – $8.00.  Camp Harbor View has always been committed to promoting equity and opportunity in Boston, but this series stirred our desire to do more. Encouraged and supported by the Board of Directors, we decided to begin with Camp Harbor View families; to learn from them about the obstacles and hurdles they face with respect to economic mobility and to work with them to design pilot solutions to some of the most intractable problems they encounter.

We have taken the first step by engaging the services of the consulting team of Turahn Dorsey and Reverend Mariama White-Hammond to lead us through a process of information-gathering with families and LITs from our program, and then to work with family representatives and an advisory board composed of corporate leaders to create short and long-term solutions of varying size and scope.

Racial and economic inequality has long been the norm in Boston.  We know that we cannot fix a problem of this magnitude, but we believe that we might be able to have an impact on at least a small group of families.  Perhaps that grows into something more substantial and perhaps we will create a model that can be replicated.  We realize this is a tall order, but we feel a deep responsibility to the families who have placed their trust in us, so we’re off and running.  We’ll keep you posted.

Meet the interns keeping us healthy

Two Camp Harbor View alumni are interning this summer at local healthcare organizations. Check out Q&As below with Megan Michta & John-Michael Louis.

Megan Michta
Megan Michta
  • 10-week internship at MGH Liver Center
  • Rising Sophomore at UMass Amherst
  • Studying Public Health & Environmental Science

How long have you been a part of Camp Harbor View?

 I started attending Camp Harbor View as a camper when I was 11 years old and have participated every year since then – over 9 years now! In this time, Camp Harbor View made me the hard worker that I am today.

What are the most valuable lessons you learned during your time at Camp Harbor View?

I really appreciate that Camp Harbor View instills strong leadership values into all campers and staff. It’s so refreshing to see and hear young children discussing respect, courage, responsibility, character, and community. As a camper, I never thought much about it, but as a Leader in Training and staff member, I realized how important it is to talk about leadership with kids and shape them into active and engaged members of not only the Camp Harbor View community but also their own families, neighborhoods and schools.

What are you doing this summer at Mass General Hospital?

My internship at MGH combines my interest in public health and my love for patient care very well and it’s very exciting because it’s my first job in medicine. I’m learning about different liver diseases as well as researching what factors could be contributing to them and how they could be reversed.

How has your time with Camp Harbor View prepared you for this opportunity?

At camp, I challenged myself to be the best version of myself so that I could be a role model for my campers. I also learned to adapt and stay calm in stressful situations. The caring and patient nature working with the kids at camp has transitioned into effectively communicating with patients and treating them with respect and kindness. The healthcare field is intertwined between many different people – doctors, nurses, research coordinators, EMTs, insurance companies and more. The communication and teamwork skills I learned at camp are a great foundation for working in healthcare since there needs to be constant communication about patient care.

What have you learned so far through this internship?

Working in clinical research has allowed me to explore many different parts of medicine, including: going on rounds with the hepatologists, shadowing weight loss surgeries and liver biopsies, aliquoting blood samples, screening clinic schedules, going through patient charts and learning about the research process and institutional review board (IRB), and much more!

What’s next for you?

This summer I have decided that I have definitely found my place in the world through medicine. Nothing excites me more than hearing about a new clinical trial that is working to treat a disease or seeing doctors in the Emergency Room save lives. After I graduate, I’m excited to pursue a Master’s in Public Health and then eventually my MD!

John-Michael Lewis
John-Michael Louis
  • 12-week internship at Madaket Health
  • Rising Junior at UMass Lowell
  • Studying Computer Engineering

How long have you been a part of Camp Harbor View?

For eight years! I first had the opportunity to be a camper then a Leader in Training and then a member of the summer staff.

What are the most valuable lessons you learned during your time at Camp Harbor View?

Leadership and inclusivity. I met all sorts of people when I came to camp as a boy. I learned how to build relationships of all kinds and made lifelong friends. At Camp Harbor View I grew to be a man.

What are you doing this summer?

This year, through Camp Harbor View, I received the opportunity to intern at Madaket Health, a healthcare tech startup in Cambridge that is working on streamlining, automating and reducing errors in the Medicare system. This is my first internship and I didn’t know what to expect going into it. From day one at Madaket I’ve felt welcomed and included in the community. The work we do at Madaket is very much team-based and requires a lot of communication – similar to camp.

How has your time with Camp Harbor View prepared you for this opportunity?

At camp, I learned how to lead by example while also building up those around me. In the professional setting, this allows me to receive feedback well and act on it. On the island I also learned to take initiative in anything I do despite not knowing the outcome – taking that risky first step goes along way regardless of where I end up. Whether it was on the rock wall or swimming for the first time, Camp Harbor View really prepared me for uncertainty and taught me how to rise to the occasion in new situations. I’ve used this in meetings to find the courage to speak up and share my point of view.

What have you learned so far through this internship?

This summer internship experience has opened up a world of opportunity for me. Personally, it’s shown me what type of job, company and work environment suits me best. On a broader scale, I’ve learned about the structure of large corporations vs. startup companies and working on both the front- and back-end of the Madaket system has given me a new appreciation for potential impact of coding, artificial intelligence and software development.

What’s next for you?

This internship has reconfirmed that I want to get a job in coding and software development after I graduate. I’m so grateful to Camp Harbor View for connecting me with Madaket. I may not be at camp this summer, but I’ve definitely taken my Camp Harbor View experience and relationships with me. Not only did the program shape who I became but it’s shaping where I’m going.

Join Us in Celebrating #BostonBlackHistory

Today is the first day of Black History Month and we’re excited to share with you an initiative we’ll be engaging in all month long. In our teen programming and on our social media channels, we’ll be celebrating the rich (and complicated) history of being black in Boston. We’re calling the project #BostonBlackHistory and we would like you to be a part of it.

Getting involved is really quite simple — we’ll be posting images and stories from leaders, activists, and change agents in our city’s black history throughout the month of February to Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and our website. However, there’s absolutely zero chance that we can do justice to about four centuries of black history by ourselves; that’s where you come in.

We’re hoping you’ll join us in using the hashtag #BostonBlackHistory and posting stories and memories to your own social media profiles or to the profile of your school, company, or organization. What stories have you lived — whether they’re about you, or your family, your friends, your community? What stories or heroes from this city’s history have inspired you? Maybe you remember when Martin Luther King, Jr., led thousands in a march from Roxbury to the Boston Common to protest school segregation. Maybe you went to Burke High School with Donna Summer. Maybe your own mom or dad or grandmother is a part of #BostonBlackHistory. We want to hear your stories.

Subscribe to our emails to make sure you don’t miss anything — we’ll be sending a few updates on the project throughout the month.

We’re looking forward to digging into our city’s rich history with you.