Message from Starfish CEO Ann Kalass
As is true for so many of you, the anxiety and anticipation of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial has dominated my head, my heart, and my hands. Upon hearing ‘guilty’ for all three counts, there was a sense of relief. Yet, reprieve faded quickly before focusing again on the work ahead to seek a just society in which all children, families, and communities have equitable opportunities to grow, learn, and thrive. This verdict was not justice and will not return George Floyd to his family. It was, however, a step towards accountability.
For nearly 60 years, Starfish Family Services has been strengthening families to create brighter futures for children across metro Detroit. Our high-quality programs are focused on early childhood education, behavioral health services, and empowering families. We recognize that children are inherently connected to their families and communities, and that we must engage wholistically. Additionally, we know that every child and their family is further linked to society and our nation’s history.
There is an undeniable and historic link between institutional racism and experiences of family poverty, educational disparities, and trauma. Communities of color have been disenfranchised for generations, limiting economic viability and access to high quality health care and education. This is the landscape that encircled the life, and murder, of George Floyd. Every day, Starfish interacts with families who face these systemic barriers as they strive to maintain stable housing, build careers, provide nutritious food, navigate schooling and education goals for their children, connect to mental and physical health supports, and stay safe. Each family brings immense strength, intelligence, resilience, and commitment to their children.
This trial and verdict have made all too clear that 400 years of oppression and violence against Black and Brown communities can only be answered with radical courage and meaningful change. No parent or caregiver should worry about their child experiencing violence at the hands of an authority figure, or from those whose hatred has been further exposed and stoked over the last decade. As Starfish provides critical support services, we must also include in our priorities and actions the steps to eradicate broken systems and partner across the fabric of non-profits, government, and schools to pursue lasting change. We commit to learning, listening, discomfort, and inviting the voices and experiences of families and communities as we continue our journey towards justice.
I ask everyone to take a moment and pause. Reflect. Close your eyes and just be with your heartbeat. Take care of yourself so you are rested and stronger for tomorrow’s sunrise. At Starfish, we are providing unique spaces and supports for employees to process their feelings and experiences. When we help our incredible teams cope and build wellness strategies, we can be our best for families and children. Here is also a link to a Race & Self Care toolkit for parents.
Every child deserves more than surviving.
Every child deserves a great start in school and in life.
Every child deserves joy.
I am humbled by the opportunity to lead Starfish through this complex time and thank you for your trust as we are called to build a powerful future for the children of greater Detroit.