October 1, 2020
To our community,
On August 17, 2020, we welcomed our second CEO of Professional Dimensions, and the first paid Black executive leader of our organization. Six days later, on August 23, 2020, Jacob Blake was shot in the back 7 times by a Kenosha Police officer, 40 miles from our downtown Milwaukee office. Throughout 2020 and before, inhumane acts of violence and injustice fueled by racism have and continue to plague our country, state and city. What follows is an evolution of the thoughts, convictions and conversations we've been having throughout this time of national crisis. A statement is never enough, and in acknowledging that, we still find value in using our platform to be very clear that here at Professional Dimensions, Black lives do matter. We hope that these words reflect our compassion, love, anger and urgency, while inspiring inquiry, engagement, justice and action.
We, the Professional Dimensions Board of Directors and Office of the President, share in your pain and offer our deepest and most sincere condolences to Jacob Blake, his family, and all of our Black brothers and sisters who have been disproportionately victimized by acts of police brutality and fear stemming from systemic racism.
We are listening and learning.
To Jacob’s family, and all families of victims demanding justice, we hear you, and we will carry your call to action with us as we leverage our privilege to make change. To those who are organizing locally and nationally to restore dignity to BIPOC individuals and fight for justice, we have read the demands for reform and we are committed to standing in our power to drive justice alongside you. And as individuals who participate in, benefit from, and both consciously and unconsciously uphold the systems that allow for perpetual injustice, we stand in immediate responsibility for changing the way we think and behave as leaders--especially during these times.
We will lead and take meaningful action.
This month marks the beginning of a new chapter for Professional Dimensions. We are a new board of directors, and a new executive office, that is making an active choice to set the vision for the future of our organization during a time of incredible unrest and uncertainty.
Professional Dimensions is anchored by 42 years of success in advancing equity for women, building intentional community, prioritizing equitable philanthropy, celebrating the women we want to emulate, and blazing trails as the first local (predominately white) professional women’s organization to take on racial justice work. Beginning this intentional work in 2005, we are positioned to lead by example while ensuring every member feels supported on her journey to actively engage in the fight against structures that perpetuate racism. Through our PD Charitable Fund, we have partnered with the YWCA of Southeastern Wisconsin on The Ripple Effect, an initiative to address the intersection of racism and sexism and develop our members’ capacity as advocates and educators within their spheres of influence. This work is simply essential to the profile of anyone we call a leader in this moment.
As we forge ahead, we are reminded that our membership is our action. Our membership includes women of every political persuasion and every profession: judges, members of law enforcement, activists, small business owners, corporate leaders. Diverse in every aspect, the conversation among the women we recruit, retain, empower, connect and support is our lever in driving change. The voices and choices of PD women within our sisterhood and, perhaps more importantly, outside of our sisterhood is how we fulfill our mission. The events we host, the programming we develop for members, and how we show up in our boardrooms, the workplace, community events, local elections, on social media and even at family dinners reflect our values and our mission. We are the blueprint for the world we desire, and we will behave accordingly.
We are healing.
Every time we experience harm -- be it systemic exclusion from democracy, silencing Black voices, and compounding microaggressions, or the intentional destruction of culture and violent attacks on innocent human lives -- we must acknowledge the trauma that comes with that. We take the well-being of our membership seriously and, feel an obligation to support healing spaces for women to connect, and be in community, without the pressure of explaining, teaching, or justifying their feelings.
Beginning this month, our CEO will be holding a virtual space that, at a minimum, will serve as a refuge for our Black members. We recognize and understand that our members may not have a space within their own professional settings where they can be vulnerable and express what’s at the nexus of Black exhaustion and Black hope. It will evolve, however it needs to, as a place to listen and learn from Black women and elevate and empower Black voices as we lean into the power that resides in collectivism. We hope to heal as we are healed, share resources, share laughs and counsel each other, as we continue to deepen relationships with ALL PD sisters. We will continue to encourage all members to get engaged with our Race Relations programming which offers opportunities to learn and heal individually and collectively.
In closing, we are humbled by the opportunity that lies in the work ahead. We will push through with the urgency and joy that these times call for. We want to be held accountable, and we depend heavily on your questions, suggestions, and conversation to guide our steps. AND, we commit to holding ourselves accountable as we lead. Thank you all for standing with us. Thank you for your trust and thank you for your love.
Professional Dimensions Board of Directors
Peggy Williams Smith
Johannah Karstedt St. John