We Believe That Black Lives Matter

By Steven M. Licciardi and Bridget Gargan, OACB
Published Friday, June 12, 2020 4:30 pm

Fifty-three years ago, Ohio families pushed for the creation of our county boards of developmental disabilities based on the belief that every person should be able to pursue a life of their own choosing free from fear, stigma, and discrimination. As professionals who work in this system more than a half-century later, we remain dedicated to this pursuit of equality, equity, and social justice. It is for this reason that we can no longer remain silent.
The horrific killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY, by police are just two of the most recent examples of thousands of instances in which Black Americans have faced injustice, injury, and death due to systemic racism in our society. This chronic mistreatment of Black Americans and devaluing of Black lives is in total opposition to our system’s founding principles of equity and community inclusion. These violent acts are senseless and disturbing; they must stop.
As public agencies charged with protecting the rights of those who are often systemically disadvantaged and discriminated against, we say without reservation that Black lives matter. Black families matter. Black communities are our communities.
To begin tackling the systemic racism that exists within the DD community, OACB will support county boards of DD (and their partners, including provider agencies, social workers, and other human service agencies) in dismantling any policies, structures, and beliefs that perpetuate racism and permit racist behavior. Our initial, immediate action steps include the following:

  1. In conjunction with our members, create an organizational blueprint that boards of DD can use to identify and dismantle both internal and external processes that promote inequitable treatment and racial bias. These include but are not limited to hiring and promotion practices, community outreach strategies, and equity in service provision;
  2. Advocate for expanded and intersectional police training on the topics of communications disabilities and race that includes voices of people with disabilities and people of color;
  3. Elevate the voices of people of color at county board of DD professional events and expand education on the topics of representation and inclusion in our programming; and
  4. Improve representation in county boards’ communications and work towards creating and setting industry-wide standards for how we talk about the intersection of race and disability.

We know this is not enough, and we will continue to find new ways of fighting systemic racism and defending the lives of Black Ohioans. To the people and families of color we support and the Black professionals in our field: We know we must do better. We will not look away. We are here for you, and we are with you.
Sincerely yours,
Steven M. Licciardi
President, OACB Board of Trustees
Board Member, Cuyahoga Co. Board of DD
Bridget Gargan
Executive Director, OACB

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