On June 8, 2020, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed, the Wider Horizons Board of Directors approved the following motion: “That the Wider Horizons statement of core values be changed to include ‘Economic, Racial, and Social Justice’.”* In notifying members of this change, Executive Director Denise Klein added this statement at the request of the Board:
“In light of all the injustice in our community, in the United States, and in the world, the Board recognizes that much more is needed. It is their intention both to support you as you undertake individual efforts and to consider adopting a variety of initiatives as an organization. We understand this is just a first step.”
Wider Horizons brings together people of many different convictions, and we do not take political stands as an organization. For many members, however, social and political issues have been of great continuing concern. Many of us have chosen to live in central Seattle in part for its social diversity. Many had careers in social services and public education. We are generally very well informed. This is all reflected in some of what goes on in Wider Horizons.
- In 2018, one of four “pods” within the Village decided to devote a year to the theme “Deepening Our Understanding of Seattle’s Black Communities.” Among other activities, they sponsored the following: a visit to the Northwest African-American Museum; attendance at a jazz performance at the Central Area Senior Center; dinners at local Ethiopian and African-American restaurants; and an evening at the Central Area Senior Center at which 60 members and guests listened to a panel of three leaders of an interracial group that confronted segregation in Seattle in 1960. Their story is told in Seattle in Black and White, published by the University of Washington Press. The book is on the annotated reading list created by members of 25 books dealing with the African-American and African immigrant experience.
- Another pod hosted an evening devoted to discussing reparations for slavery. The discussion was led by member Richard Johnson, a retired University of Washington professor of American history.
- Among our best attended regular gatherings have been those of the Magazine Group, to which members brings magazine articles to discuss. Many of the articles focus on such topics as the cost of medical care, problems of public education, and current events in the news.
- The regular all-member Zoom meetings occurring since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic have been organized around three member-suggested questions to be discussed in breakout “rooms.” At least one of these addresses a current civic concern: “Do you think the re-opening of the economy should be happening faster or more slowly?” “What are your views on police reform?”
- The breakout sessions in the all-member meetings have led to the creation of ongoing self-run small groups focused on a topic. One group is exploring personal responses to the idea of white privilege; another is considering ways of taking social action.
- In addition to Executive Director Denise Klein’s Monday Morning Memo, a weekly online newsletter of what is happening in Wider Horizons, Denise is now sending out a Wednesday Memo about events and activities related to social issues. She curates the list from the many suggestions sent in by members each week. The memo for August 26, 2020, listed, among other items, Iconic Black Women, an exhibit at the NW African American Museum; a Lifetime Learning Center course on Slavery and Reconstruction; and free tickets to a Social Justice Film Institute screening of Black Voices, Black Lives: Art as Activism.
*see Wider Horizons Core Values for full list of values