Recently we were troubled yet again to witness another shooting of a Black man — Jacob Blake — by the police. This time it was in Kenosha, Wis., and was followed by the murder of two additional people in an act of vigilantism. This latest tragedy continues to highlight the moral crisis facing our country — a crisis that affects each one of us.

Here at the Multicultural Family Center, part of our mission is to empower families. Our families are not empowered when they are living in fear. Our families are not empowered when they are living in pain. Our families are not empowered when they are consistently bombarded with messages that they are “less than.”

We write today to show support for our community members who are in pain. We also share our support for the Kenosha community and the peaceful protests, while we condemn the violence and vigilantism that has followed.

These events continue to inform our understanding of the phrase, “Black lives matter.” We have no desire to minimize the lives of people who are not Black, and we do want to recognize the ways in which our country fails, again and again, to value Black lives.

On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described at the March on Washington the debt owed to our Black and Brown brothers and sisters:

“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, Black men as well as White men, would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’”

Recently, Dr. King’s son stood in the same spot, speaking of the same “triple evils” of poverty, racism and violence that are destroying our communities today just as they were 57 years ago.

Here in Dubuque, the MFC will continue our quest to provide hope, education, and safety to youth and families so that they might reach their potential in a world that fails to value them. Every day we feel the pain of the youth and families we serve. And every day, we see their continued resilience in the face of lack of living-wage employment, lack of health care, violence. Through reciprocal relationships, we learn from our youth and families as they learn from us. We provide youth the tools that will help them make informed choices about their lives, so they can be the change-makers of the future.

We ask all of you to own this effort alongside us. We ask you to support us in our mission and the work that we are doing. Begin with an open heart and a desire to learn. Take the time to learn about the different cultures present in our community. Take the time to examine the ways that structures and systems continue to hold people in poverty, poor health, and violent victimization.

Take the risk to grow in ways that allow you to be part of making informed choices that lead us toward a community that is unified through diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Chris Johnson is president of the Multicultural Family Center Board of Directors. This piece was written on behalf of board members.