Recent events involving the killing of black and brown people in America have sparked conversation, debate, protest, and even rioting.

I am deeply saddened to see the pain and anger of so many people manifesting itself in destructive actions and violence. However, defacing monuments and protesting in the streets pales in comparison to the pain and injustice of the loss of black and brown lives.

Todd Finn

When monuments are cleaned up and street cleaners have passed through every byway where pain, frustration, and anger spilled over, there is still an underlying issue that will remain prevalent until deeper work is addressed.

I believe our efforts as a community and a nation need to be in examining the root cause of what we are seeing in our communities. And then we need to address those root causes collectively and with conviction.

The culture and lives of people of color have always been the targets of violence and threats due to fear, ignorance, power perception, and flat-out racism. My life and work has depended on and benefitted from the lessons and influence of people of color and, without many of them, I would not be where I am today.

To say that black lives matter is an understatement. Many of my fellow brothers-in-arms, teammates, coworkers, role models, and mentors with different skin tones and complexions than mine have contributed so much to my life’s journey, which eventually led me here.

In Lewiston, much of the encouragement I have had throughout my first year as a new superintendent came largely from the black community and I remain indebted to them as much as anyone for the opportunity to learn and grow as a community leader in Lewiston.

When people of color are hurt, I can’t help but to hurt with them. Their life paths and experiences as black people are things I will never know or fully comprehend, but I respect them and constantly work to understand them as best I can.

Our community consists of many individuals and families who are in a difficult and challenging space right now, and it is important for staff, teachers, parents, and students to know that they are not alone. We are here to listen, support, show compassion and find solutions together.

There are connections that bind us all together as Americans. We are supposed to have been a grand social experiment. At our best, we are this great melting pot in a land of opportunity where anyone can become anything they want to if they are willing to put in the work.

But we know that this is not always the case for everyone in this collective cauldron. Barriers have been created to undermine collective progress. And those barriers are evident in the news we read, watch, and listen to each day.

Until our collective mindset shifts away from fear and ignorance and toward acceptance and empathy, we will continue to witness events that make us uneasy about these times we live in.

We must always be reflective and willing to critically examine ourselves to seek answers to our collective pain. We must shine a light on the work that needs to be done to heal. The work will be done at the table under calmer circumstances with open, two-way communication.

Change takes place in policy, and when we examine policies and procedures, we understand that we need to rethink how we do what we do as Americans.

As a human being first, an American by birth, and a public school superintendent by profession, I have a duty to my fellow man, including all races, ethnicities, faiths, cultures and backgrounds. We can be the change we wish to see in this world.

It takes listening to just one voice for us to realize there are many more voices in concert. These voices may come from people who look different from one another, who may pray in many different ways, who speak with various dialects and share many different cultures. Those individual voices demanding freedom and justice all share the same message.

The time to share that unified message is now.

Let’s work toward brighter days ahead and some peaceful time to reflect on who we really are, what we would like to become one day, and for an opportunity to heal together.

We are Lewiston Strong.

Todd Finn is superintendent of the Lewiston Public Schools.

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