Illustration by Kirsten Yizar
Photos from the recent Black Lives Matter protest march in Rye by Raazia Syed
We Can and Must to Do More
By Robin Jovanovich
For most people of my generation, 1968 was the worst year of our young lives. It was the year we grew up too quickly. As a teen-ager growing up in New York City, the riots and looting and burning were less than a mile from our apartment. Lyndon Johnson, under whose fearless leadership the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act the following year, failed to find a winning strategy in the Vietnam War and didn’t run for reelection, which ushered in the presidency of Richard Nixon. After the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, we lost faith, defied our elders, shouted, marched, and then all too quickly returned to getting on with our own lives and, through that process hoping to help, if no longer save the world.
In the last several weeks, we are once again a nation in a quagmire. The mounting number and seriousness of the protests after the horrific killing of George Floyd demonstrate just how far we still need to go to prevent injustice and ensure equal rights and opportunities for all.
It will take more than soul searching or the formation of a committee to extinguish racism. The City can start by hiring more black police officers. Rye school administrators can start by creating a program that will afford neighboring Port Chester students enrichment classes not offered in their school district. Residents can start by finding a way to volunteer for an organization like SCORE, which provides mentors to young people, most of them black, striving to succeed in business.
To all the young people back living at home because of the pandemic who are impatient for progress and equality and evidence of the principles that guide us, I can only say that black lives will only matter more if you get out and do a better job than we did.
I am blessed to lead a small foundation that provides college scholarships to as many as 80 students a year, most of them black. I work with the students, especially the struggling ones. Our graduation rate is much higher than the national average, and our students graduate in four years and debt-free. They stay in touch and come back for our small graduation ceremonies to tell us once again how much that scholarship meant.
But I recognize that I will have to come up with ways to do more because educational opportunity remains shamefully unequal.
Scientists will find a vaccine or a cure for the coronavirus, but our country will never quell racism without every one of us putting our words into action.