A letter to the community from Triangle Community Foundation

Dear friends,

There is a deadly virus lurking in our community, and our nation.

These last few months have seen us subjected to circumstances that no one could have anticipated or prepared for: the closing of businesses, social distancing from friends and families, economic downturns, increased need. For our must vulnerable populations – the elderly, people of color, those ineligible for government support - these hardships have been magnified.

At Triangle Community Foundation, we’ve spent this time trying to figure out how to best support these communities and the nonprofits that provide services for them, to do what we can to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. But, even in the midst of this pandemic, we know that there exists an even more deadly virus: racism.

While the events that took place in Minneapolis, Georgia, and New York in the past weeks are unfortunately not unique, I feel like the isolation and frustration that we’re all feeling right now has heightened our sense of anger, of helplessness, of overwhelm and exhaustion. And the reaction across our country, regardless of how you feel about the tactics, is understandable. Because the fight to quite literally stay alive, to continuously explain and defend oneself and the right to simply be, is unjust and exhausting. While I can never know their lived experience, I can use my voice to say, this is wrong. To negate someone’s humanity for simply being a person of color is wrong, it’s against what we purport to stand for in America, and it needs to stop.

It’s up to all of us.  We are dedicated to doing what we can at the Foundation, lifting up, funding, and learning how to break barriers for those organizations and communities that lack access to the networks and resources for the people they serve, but it’s not enough. Our community is not, will not, and cannot be our best until we are willing to listen, be uncomfortable, learn from, and support one another, particularly at a time of crisis.

My friends and colleagues know all too well that I can always find a music or pop culture reference to sum up my feelings or an experience. Today I’m quoting Ragtime, a musical written in 1998 and based on the novel set at the dawn of the 20th century. When the protagonist, Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a Black ragtime musician, holds the JP Morgan Library hostage, after an altercation with the police over owning a car costs his fiancée her life, he pleads:

“Go out and tell our story to your daughters and your sons
Make them hear you
And tell them, "In our struggle,
We were not the only ones"
Make them hear you
Your sword could be a sermon
Or the power of the pen
Teach every child to raise his voice
And then my brothers, then
Will justice be demanded by ten million righteous men
Make them hear you.”

I hope by writing this, I’ll have made just a few people hear.  And I hope they listen.


Lori O'Keefe
President & CEO