[Tall-Corn] FW: [Nfbnet-members-list] Love Conquers Hate: An Open Letter from President Riccobono to Members

Scott Van Gorp svangorp at nfbi.org
Mon Jun 1 12:35:49 UTC 2020

Good Morning Federation Family:

Many of you have undoubtedly seen this message already, but I wanted to make
sure no one got missed. Please read this important letter from our National
president, Mark Riccobono, in its entirety. We in the National Federation of
the Blind of Iowa join him in solidarity. I cannot say it better than he
has, so I'll let the letter speak for itself. Let's go build the Federation
with Love for all, hope for the future, and determination to do what is
right, now, and always!


Scott Van Gorp, President
National Federation of the Blind of Iowa
Phone: 515-720-5282
 <mailto:svangorp at nfbi.org> Email

 <http://www.nfbi.org/> Website 
082570/posts> Facebook 
 <https://twitter.com/nfb_iowa> Twitter 
Live the life you want.

The National Federation of the Blind of Iowa is a community of members and
friends who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nation's blind. Every day
we work together to help blind people live the lives they want.




From: NFBNet-Members-List <nfbnet-members-list-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf
Of National Federation of the Blind via NFBNet-Members-List
Sent: Sunday, May 31, 2020 1:58 PM
To: nfbnet-members-list at nfbnet.org
Subject: [Nfbnet-members-list] Love Conquers Hate: An Open Letter from
President Riccobono to Members






An Open Letter to the Members of the National Federation of the Blind

I write this message to you as the elected President of the National
Federation of the Blind. I also write it to you as an American who is
struggling this week. I call upon members of our organization to recognize
the solidarity we share as blind people and that the value we place on love
within our movement is needed more today than at any other time in our

I watched the horrific video shot by a brave seventeen year-old of the
killing of George Floyd, a citizen of our great nation. Before I watched the
video, I wondered what I could do and how I could contribute to healing the
pain. I had no answers. After I watched the video, I realized I still did
not have the answers and I was sad, angry, scared, frustrated, and without
hope. Then I realized that we share tools in the National Federation of the
Blind that can help. We can not look away and we need to share what we know
from our experience in this people's movement. 

Our movement has been sustained for the purpose of serving as a vehicle for
collective action by the blind of the nation to promote the vocational,
cultural, and social advancement of the blind; to achieve the integration of
the blind into society on a basis of equality with the sighted; and to take
any other action which will improve the overall condition and standard of
living of the blind. While racial equality in our nation is not within our
mission, we also recognize that blindness affects all races and that the
society we live within has an impact on our membership.

The Federation's Code of Conduct
specifically emphasizes our commitments to diversity. In short "We respect
differences of opinion, beliefs, identities, and other characteristics that
demonstrate that blind people are a diverse cross section of society...In
promoting a diverse and growing organization, we expect integrity and
honesty in our relationships with each other and openness to learning about
and experiencing cultural diversity. We believe that these qualities are
crucial to fostering social and intellectual maturity. Intellectual maturity
also requires individual struggle with unfamiliar ideas." This week, I have
been struggling to comprehend the fear and anger that black members of my
Federation family are experiencing. I do not, and never can, have the
authentic lived experience that you have, but yet I am also completely
outraged by the hate and injustice that fell upon George Floyd on Monday. I
recognize there are many centuries of painful layers wrapped up in that
moment. I recognize that George is neither the first nor the last in a chain
of injustices that need to be addressed. I want you to know I stand with you
in facing the injustice that persists against you because of the color of
your skin. I want you to know that I love you and I struggle with not being
able to fully know your pain and fear. I want you to know I am prepared to
be guided by you as to how I can make a difference. I cannot say that I have
not become desensitized in times past, but I can tell you I will never turn
away again.

While our organization is dedicated to advancing the rights of blind people,
we should not act as though race does not exist. As our chapters attempt to
do business, as we urge our members to take up our priorities, we should
recognize that thousands of our members are impacted by the painful
realizations of this week. As a people's movement, we cannot pretend that
our people only have one characteristic. Now is the time to let each member
know we love them and we recognize their hurt. Now is also the time for us
to recognize, as individuals, that we carry implicit bias learned from the
society around us, and to seek the training that will enhance our awareness.
Now is the time to give love to our black members so that we might learn how
we can do better in building the understanding that powers the organized
blind movement. 

Now is not the time for us to use our organizational communication tools to
offer position statements about the activities playing out on the streets of
our nation. it is easy to write messages and posts of solidarity without
having a true understanding of the issues. It is easy to suggest that we
share the concerns of our black members. The harder thing for us to do is to
consciously listen and seek understanding while supporting others in their
pain and frustration. The Federation has never been known for merely doing
what is easy. The priority today is to ensure all of our black members know
they are welcomed and loved in this movement. In fact, we should extend that
same truth to any others who feel the real pain sweeping our nation. Please
do not use organizational assets to enter the dialogue around race. That is
not our purpose as an organization and we may unintentionally make it worse.
We need to continue to coordinate messaging and to be guided by the wisdom
of our diversity and inclusion committee. As leaders of our movement, we
should also be conscious that our public posts may be misunderstood as
representing the Federation. Our personal feelings and misunderstanding
around the death of George Floyd, the protests sweeping our nation, and the
underlying systemic discrimination may hurt and divide members of the
organization. We cannot let that happen and we must be careful as leaders
not to add to the pain our members are experiencing. As it relates to our
public messaging, let us stay focused on the priorities of the organized
blind movement. As it comes to our cherished friends, let our priority be to
reach out personally to listen and offer our hands in support.

I have had the opportunity to gather virtually with some of our top black
leaders-a group who will continue to guide my actions related to these
issues. I asked them for wisdom and love in finding ways that I could guide
our membership during this trying time in our nation. Their message was
clear. Our movement is built on love and love always conquers hate. The
Federation family needs to shine a light for the rest of the nation by
continuing to demonstrate that the love, and solidarity, that we share with
each other in this movement makes all the difference. They also noted that
our organization has always valued civil disobedience and persistent pursuit
of equality. They urged that we continue to pray for peace, justice, and
equality. I could not agree more with these friends I have been blessed to
learn from in our movement. Furthermore, I am thankful that we have a
movement that provides us a meaningful opportunity to know people whose
lived experience is so different from our own while sharing a common bond as
blind people.

In the National Federation of the Blind we know that blindness is not the
characteristic that defines us or our future. Blindness is the thing that
brings us together but it is not the thing that makes us want to stay
together. That, in a word, is love.  We have love in our movement and we
strengthen it by giving it. We have some wisdom and we strengthen it by
continuing to seek greater understanding. We need more of both love and
wisdom at every opportunity. Let's continue to share love, hope, and
determination with each other so that together we transform our dreams into
reality. One of those dreams still left tobe transformed is that of a nation
where we can join together regardless of our unique characteristics. That is
a dream I am struggling to help my own children understand so they may do
better than I in making it come true. I speak for all of our national board
members when I say we sincerely believe that the love and togetherness
demonstrated in our movement can go a long way in contributing to that
dream. It can be hard to remember that in this moment when so many of us are
hurting, angry, frustrated, and scared. Let us continue to support each
other in the Federation family. Let us avoid the harmful language that will
only serve to divide us in this time. Let us go forward together, love one
another, and change the world for the better.


Mark A. Riccobono, President

National Federation of the Blind









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