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Kathy Reed, MSW, LCSW at St. Anthony’s Hospital, has been a regular Building Hope newsletter contributor on topics surrounding social justice and racial equity. She speaks from her perspective only, and from her experiences as a social worker, a longtime Summit County resident, the adoptive mother of a college student, a Christian, and a descendent of slaves. Our hope is that her column has spurred conversation around systemic racism that diminishes opportunity, safety and mental health across our country.

In this, my last newsletter article on the subject of race and equity, I want to thank Building Hope for this opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences over the last year.  I hope that they have been beneficial to you.

A year ago, this time, the pandemic was in full swing. We were still locked down from what we had thought would be a two-week quarantine. It became a strange and frightening dystopia that lasted for months and months in some places. My heart goes out to those who lost love ones. Who knew so many would die?

Social media had exploded. And the war between the politicians was just gearing up. For my own mental health during this time, I limited my news intake, so it was more than a week until I knew about the brutal death of George Floyd and the protests and civil unrest.  I found out about it during a class I was teaching for DU. When the students expressed their desire to join in on a protest. I went from not being aware of the tragedy to reading and watching everything I could get my hands on. This set me on a journey which included me stepping out of my comfort zone and into public spaces that I have never been before.

This being my last article, I wanted to share with you how George Floyd’s murder affected and changed me.  I was not able to participate in the protests that occurred in Breckenridge and Frisco. Nor did I participate in writing Black Lives Matter on main street in Frisco. But I felt that I needed to do something! I started by ravenously consuming news outlets. Reading everything I could find and learning about how government works. I wrote my federal representatives several times, expressing my thoughts and what I wanted them to focus on as my representative; and I accepted the opportunity to write these articles for Building Hope.

I asked my graduate student intern to create a training to explain the dominant culture to non-dominant culture groups. It was very well received, leading to multiple opportunities to share. And most recently, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts about Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in regard to mental health in mountain communities. I began having open and honest conversations around the issues of the day with people who disagreed/agreed with me. I wanted to know what people were thinking. I became more open to sharing what I think and accepting of others who don’t think like me.  I made a commitment to embrace those I love regardless of their political ideology. In order to learn about a different culture, I started watching Asian TV dramadies and found that I love them! I taught more challenging courses like “Power, Privilege and Oppression.” Finally, I decided to be brave and join with others who want to help move the needle toward better race relations.

For someone who has always considered herself middle of the road on most things, I have now been labeled “radical” by some. Who knew?

And what about you? How has this year impacted you? What have you learned about yourself and those around you? What commitments have you made to yourself and others about how you will work toward the type of world you want to live in and raise your children? It is my hope that you will take the time to reflect on the past 12 months and at the end of your reflection, you are as proud of what you have accomplished as I am; or that you will make a commitment toward this next year for what you want to accomplish.  You can do it. We can do it together!

Thank you for giving me the privilege to share, learn and grow with you.

Kathy Reed