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Message from the SAAS Board of Trustees Chair

Dear SAAS Community,

As board chair of SAAS, I have been thinking about my role in addressing the challenges we find ourselves confronted with in our country and city. Fortunately, I was reminded by Dr. King that “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.” Dr. King’s words moved me to put pen to paper to address today’s tragic time.

I value law enforcement and the need for it to maintain peace and to serve and protect the citizens in our communities. I admire the officers who faithfully serve our SAAS community. I have friends who are also police officers, and they put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis. I also know that our nation has and continues to be plagued by (1) a segment of our police force that is racist and unduly bias and (2) a system of oppression that uses criminal justice to implement a new era of Jim Crow.

Unforgivably, police officers like Derek Chauvin taint the law enforcement profession, giving some in the public a negative perception of police. Many people of color, myself included, have had dehumanizing encounters with the police. For me, it was nearly 30 years ago when a group of police officers surrounded my car and held me at gun point with my infant daughter in the back seat. Why did they stop me? According to one officer, I fit the description of the suspect: a black man driving a BMW.

I will admit it was one of my deepest moments of despair.

After George Floyd was murdered, I sent a text to Rob Phillips expressing my frustration with what is going on in our nation. I told him that I was losing hope. How could we not pass common sense gun control after Newtown, or eliminate “Stand Your Ground” laws after Trayvon Martin, or make choke holds illegal after Eric Garner?

These incidents have left me angry, frustrated, and looking for answers and solutions. I have watched nervously as protests and riots unfold throughout the nation and here at home in Seattle.

I have overheard some say how disgusting it is that people were rioting in Seattle and near our SAAS community. I was again reminded of a Dr. King quote when he addressed congregants at the Holt Street Baptist Church in preparation for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He said: “. . . my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression. There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair.”

There are courageous protesters who are marching and expressing their First Amendment rights in the name of victims such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and too many others. Unfortunately, there are also people who are rioting with ill intent—not in search of justice, but instead in an effort to profit or cause harm to others. Please do not let the latter overshadow the former. I never believe that violence should be an option. However, the pain and frustration many Americans experience is real. We must all be outraged. We must all be at least empathetic to the pain that burns to the core when racism is rampant in our communities. We must all demand better from our leaders. To that end, I was so moved to see such a diverse group of protesters across our nation who came together in Minneapolis, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, Portland, and Washington, DC.

In the midst of this darkness, there are glimmers of hope. I think about how the SAAS community consistently demonstrates the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  I think about SAAS’s recent Performing Arts Gala and the Athletics Celebration, highlighting our culture of talented performers and athletes. I think about how resilient our 2020 graduates have been and have faith in all they will accomplish in the future. As a result, my hope is being restored.

As you can see from my letter, I am a huge fan of Dr. King. So, I will leave you with one more quote from him. “. . . in all of our actions we must stick together. Unity is the great need of the hour, and if we are united, we can get many of the things that we not only desire but which we justly deserve.”

Thank you for your continued devotion to community, fairness, equity, and a better future for our children. Please continue to do what you can to move our nation, our city, and our school to a better place. We need you!!

Sincerely,

David Sheppard

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In Focus, Spring 2022

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