Social Justice and Equity Statement
The Center for Aquatic Sciences, located in Camden, New Jersey, is committed to creating an inclusive and just environment that supports all communities. We will amplify our efforts to work actively against the structural racism that is woven into the history, culture, and practice of how this nation manages our shared land, ocean, air, water, food, and other life-sustaining systems to which we all have equal rights. We endeavor to put our values into practice.
We are outraged and heartbroken as we grieve for the many Black lives lost to police brutality, COVID-19, and over 400 years of systemic racism in America. The Center for Aquatic Sciences stands in solidarity with the Black community, because Black lives do matter. We stand for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice in our center and in our community. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many more, highlight how Black Americans are still facing extreme adversity and racial injustice. We must challenge ourselves to ask the tough questions: What are we doing to combat racism and leverage our resources for the greater good? What are we doing to diversify our staff and programming? What can we do to ensure everyone, including people of color, shape our mission and work in our industry?
Why, as an environmental organization, are we commenting on this issue? We cannot remain silent about an issue that so deeply affects our community and employees. People of color have been largely left out of the conservation movement, often as a result of discriminatory and oppressive practices, despite being the most vulnerable to experience the negative effects of water pollution and other environmental hazards. The resulting environmental, social and economic inequities have deepened the distrust and distance between many communities of color and the traditional environmental movement. This deprives environmental groups of ideas and energies that would help the movement achieve greater success, and inevitably it sends a message that conservation is an exclusionary, white space.
The Center for Aquatic Sciences is committed to doing the hard work needed to uphold the values of justice and equity for all communities. We began our journey to address disparities in equitable access and inclusion upon our founding 31 years ago, but there is more to be done. Last year we initiated an organization-wide initiative to increase our cultural humility. Our community listening sessions, internal conversations and organizational practices/policy audits, and on-going training are equipping us with needed tools to better understand power and privilege and implicit bias, to instill responsibility and accountability while pursuing a greater degree of diversity and inclusivity for the Center and its constituents.
We will recognize and leverage our influence, including white privilege, to incorporate issues of environmental justice and access into our existing programing that largely impact Camden and other vulnerable communities. This work is focused on the fundamental rights for access to public lands and waters to hike, paddle, or birdwatch, and ensuring all Americans have clean water to drink, and clean air to breathe.
We can uplift our community as allies by deepening our understanding and awareness of the systemic racism that Black Americans and communities of color face. The Center for Aquatic Sciences is an ethnically diverse organization, with half of the employees being Camden residents. We fear for our organizational family and will support them in their pursuit for freedom and justice.
We will work with our community partners and supporters to sustain our robust youth development program that actively recruits students from Camden City, providing educational and employment growth opportunities that strengthens their connection with nature and foster leadership in the environmental space.
To everyone who is suffering in sadness, anger and fear, know that we see you, we hear you, we feel you, and we pledge to work even harder toward achieving a more just and equitable society.
WE STAND IN SOLIDARITY.
The Center has the privilege of working and learning with young people across the City of Camden, NJ in our CAUSE program. They bring their talents, passion, leadership and dreams to our collective efforts for social and environmental justice. Their lives and their voices matter. They have reflected deeply on the current state of this country and felt compelled to share their lived experiences and thoughts with you. We are so inspired by them, their reflections, and their work towards building an equitable future.
We give thanks to all who support the CAUSE program, for without your investment in creating opportunities and platforms for these young people, their continued impact on their community would not be possible.