SZBA Statement and Call to Action on Systemic Racism

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In deep grief over the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the Soto Zen Buddhist Association acknowledges the deep-seated, systemic, and structural racism that poisons life in the United States of America. We vow to continue the work we are currently engaged in and call for a fresh and coordinated effort to dismantle racism at every level of our culture, society, government, our Zen communities, and our own hearts.  

Today, we see and hear the searing pain and anger of Black people, who have endured centuries of oppression in the United States and who, as a community, continue to suffer acts of violence and discrimination, including at the hands of law enforcement. 

We grieve the disproportionate number of people of color who have died of the coronavirus, and see that many people of color performing essential functions of society are undervalued and oppressed economically. Those of us who are white fully avow our complicity in perpetuating this harm. 

We look to the Dharma to support us as a community, and to inspire and inform our actions off the cushion. As Soto Zen Buddhist priests the Dharma is our guide as we sow the seeds of compassion and inclusion toward all people. We recognize the deeply embedded ways racism and white privilege deprive us of the world we have vowed to co-create with all beings. We vow to overcome racism in ourselves, our Sanghas, and our world.

We call on all members of the SZBA to dig deeply into our own roles in institutionalized and systemic racism and engage in the following actions:

Acknowledging the suffering racism causes, we commit to creating refuges for all who breathe, and for those who feel they cannot breathe. The SZBA acknowledges that we have not always been a refuge for Black and Brown people. We atone for this and we renew our vow to untangle racism’s tenacious tendrils and cultivate the blossoming of a new and better world. We will practice the humility that is essential to listening deeply and that leads to real and lasting change.  

With palms together,

The SZBA Board of Directors

Tenku Ruff, President

Charlie Pokorny, Vice President

Chimyo Atkinson, Secretary

Dokai Georgesen, Treasurer

Mamta Prakash

Thomas Bruner

Gyozan Royce Johnson

Sosan Flynn

Koshin Paley Ellison

Marc Lesser

Inryū Bobbi Poncé-Barger

The SZBA Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Accessibility (DEIA) Committee

Rakugo Annalisa Castaldo, Committee Chair

Dokai Georgesen, Board Liaison

Tova Green

Ben Connelly

Kaku Robert Gunn

Ryuki Tom Hawkins

Genjo Conway