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Reflections & an invitation from ACH partner Holly Martinsen

Regardless of our identity, many of us remember where we were when we learned of the murder of George Floyd this year. But seeing it on social media, learning about it on the news, or hearing it from another person — people of color (POC) undoubtedly have a different experience than the white population when hearing and processing this news.

Holly Martinsen is a Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Clinician at Lydia Place, a community-based agency in Bellingham.  Holly shared her experience with us.

“I remember when I first heard about the murder of George Floyd by police officers Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J Alexander Kueng from the Minneapolis Police Department…my partner showed me the video. Several different emotions washed over me as tears welled up, my eyes glued to the screen: rage, anguish, fear, despair, hopelessness.  Of course, this was just one of so many examples of police brutality against people of color in our country.”

In primarily white spaces, people of color have the challenge of carrying on, processing and grieving on their own, without being surrounded by others who can truly understand.  This is the case for many POC in the North Sound region.

“The morning after I watched the video, I tried to hold it together and get through a staff meeting at work,” Holly shares.  “Even trying not to, I broke down and cried, sobbing while my coworkers sat with me virtually (in an online meeting).  I felt supported by my coworkers in that moment of vulnerability; however, they are all white.

I talked with my supervisor privately afterward about my need for a space to process where I could be truly vulnerable, wondering  if there was anywhere in my area where I could be with other people of color and process what I was feeling…neither of us knew of any.”

Following the suggestion of her supervisor, Holly reached out to North Sound ACH.  We weren’t aware of a space like this, but were excited to offer resources to start a group for POC in the community. With Holly working with ACH staff and consultants from Seed Collaborative, the first convening for people of color took place on June 22, 2020.  Monthly meetings have taken place since, and the group has begun to solidify its purpose.  

“What do we, as people of color in this community, need from our time together?  So far, we’ve decided this group should be a space for us to build community and connect personally and professionally, as well as have a space to share and get feedback from one another about our ideas, projects, and goals. We also want this to be a space to share and discuss resources and network with one another,” Holly explained.

Members of the group agree that one of the most critical components to meeting the needs of this group is to have the voices of participants in planning and continued development.  Planning meetings are open to all participants to contribute ideas.  Moving into the new year, the POC Convening hopes to add new participants and continue to grow.

“This group has provided a safe space for me to be open and vulnerable with individuals who have a richer, deeper understanding of my experience with being a person of color in my community,” Holly shared.  We want to extend an invitation to ALL people of color in the North Sound Region to attend these gatherings.” 

In this spirit of support and solidarity, we would like to extend an invitation to anyone who is a person of color in the North Sound Region to attend upcoming convenings.  To be added to the group list, please email voices@northsoundach.org.  

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