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The Fierce Urgency of Now

This blog was authored by JFF's former CEO Marlene B. Seltzer.

Like so many people across the country, I am saddened and enraged by the recent brutal violence and mass murders that have left our nation torn and deeply divided along race and class lines. From Orlando, Baton Rouge, and the Minneapolis area, to Dallas and Fort Myers, acts of violence, motivated by fear and hatred raise the question: How can the greatest democracy in the world possibly tolerate such injustice and what can we do, individually and collectively, to change the course of what will be a very ugly chapter in our history?

I have worked at Jobs for the Future (JFF) for most of its 30-year history and, working with all of our partners, tried to eliminate some of the economic and social inequities. But, despite all of our collective and individual efforts, inequalities still persist in our great country. The heightened visibility of these inequities and their destructive impact—especially on communities of color—have led our society to a critical inflection point.

Certainly at JFF we feel an even greater sense of urgency to address entrenched structural barriers and create meaningful pathways to economic and social mobility. At Voices for Opportunity and Economic Mobility, a recent national summit that we hosted in New Orleans, many of our partners—educators, employers, policy experts, community organizations, and young leaders—echoed the necessity to work together on collective responses that go beyond past fragmentation. As President Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

We have gathered as a diverse JFF community to share our personal thoughts and emotions, and to reflect how recent events are affecting our work with young people and adults who encounter structural racism and those who are held back by the multigenerational effects of poverty. We are also committed as a community to continuing these important and often difficult conversations. So periodically, you’ll see posts on our website from JFF staff who, in their own words, convey what these events mean for them personally and for what we, with our partners, do in the field with people across our nation. We hope our insights are helpful—via voice and action—and encourage others to join us in our efforts to empower, advocate for, and reduce barriers for those most affected by the recent violence. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently said more than 50 years ago, it’s time to recognize “the fierce urgency of now.”