May 2020: In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the Catalina Rotary Club decided it must do what it could to help address root causes of racial injustice in our community. Catalina Rotarians joined with Rotarians from four other clubs (Pantano, Tucson, & Bisbee in Arizona, as well as San Francisco, California) to create a Racial Justice Work Group.
The Racial Justice Work Group’s task: Identify ways Rotary can make a positive difference in the area of racial justice in our local Tucson community – ways that are in sync with the club’s mission to support children in need. To that end, the group spent ten months consulting with community organizations and African-American community leaders via Zoom. These meetings generated proposals for twelve projects. The Work Group settled on four of these, which were approved by Catalina Rotary’s Board of Directors and the membership.
The first phase of the Catalina Rotary Club’s Racial Justice Initiative includes these efforts:
- Erickson Reading Program: Develop, fund, and participate in a reading program at Erickson Elementary School in Tucson, in partnership with the Tucson Unified School District’s African American Student Services department and the University of Arizona. Interns from the University of Arizona Africana Studies program will provide remedial reading instruction to 2nd and 3rd graders who read below grade level but don’t qualify for available programs or services that supplement standard reading instruction. The goal of this program: Achieve 100% reading proficiency by 3rd grade for all African American students at Erickson School. The program will begin in September 2021 and is expected to become a model for other Rotary Clubs.
- Dunbar Pavilion: Help the Dunbar Pavilion, an African American cultural and educational institution in Tucson, develop and execute a capital and operational expense campaign. Dunbar’s goal is to make the Dunbar Pavilion a place for area African Americans to meet, grow, and thrive – and to provide a venue where everyone can come to understand and celebrate African American history and culture.
- Network for Equity & Education Development (NEED): NEED’s goal is to reduce and ultimately eliminate the significant gaps in rates of arrest, conviction, and detention for Black youth as compared to youth of other races in Pima County. NEED meetings and activities have continued throughout the pandemic with a renewed focus on developing metrics and activities that address root causes of the disparities for Black youth in the juvenile justice system. The Catalina Rotary will assist NEED’s efforts by helping plan and implement initiatives, as well as generating financial support.
- Multi-racial Forum with the Tucson Police Department: Catalina Rotarians will help create a multi-racial forum with the Tucson Police Department to identify and mitigate issues of racial injustice in law enforcement. The goal is to develop an opportunity for frank and constructive dialog about racial justice issues in Tucson law enforcement. The search for an African American community sponsor to lead the effort is underway.