Hundreds in downtown Bangor protest racial inequality and the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Credit: Eesha Pendharkar / BDN

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Diane Dickerson is the CEO of the Bangor Region YMCA.

When I moved to Maine eight years ago, I was unsure of my decision, and I had 1,001 questions about the community, the people, and wondered if I would ever feel and be a part of this place the way I was in Nevada and California. It was a scary time and a very big transition.

What I learned within my first year here is that it is the people and their community spirit of working together for a common goal that is our greatest strength. This is what I fell in love with and what made me know this was home. Therefore, I am calling upon all of us to make sure that our home is one of equity, equality and justice.

This is an aspirational vision that is long overdue in this nation. But if my experiences within this community are any indication, I trust that we will bring our whole selves to this challenge with patience, humility and resourcefulness.

It is difficult to question stories we’ve believed about ourselves and others. It is difficult to evaluate the ways in which we’ve either been racialized or done harm through racializing others.

The only responsible response to the experiences of Amara Ifeji, Ibby Konteh and Ijeoma Obi, and other students of color at Bangor High School is as a call to action for all of us to do better. They deserve better.

As entities that serve the broader community, we must work together to ensure that residents of color know and trust that their physical safety, mental health and overall well-being is crucial to us. No entity can do it alone. It takes all of us as a community to work for this powerful goal and to ensure it is sustained in our time and for generations to come.

I honor the Bangor School District and all others who are taking this seriously, but they cannot go it alone. It will take all of us to implement anti-racist initiatives, and it must be done with open eyes, minds, hearts and ears.

I am the proud mom of a Mount Desert Island High School teacher who also is the advisor of the school’s Civil Rights Club. I have learned so much from her in the past few months, particularly that organizations and institutions must leverage their power to create meaningful solutions that authentically address inequities.

The Bangor Region YMCA stands against racism. We commit to speaking up when injustice is perpetrated. Silence allows racism to persist and that is why we have removed people from our Y and ended their memberships when they have displayed racist words or actions.

We denounce structural racism as a moral issue, and commit to using our power, big or small, to fight against it. We commit to learning and growing as an organization, and deepening our mission so we can build a community where everyone can breathe.

All people are welcome in our Y — no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, religion, political stance, financial status or age. It is what makes the Y such a magical and wonderful place.

But, this feeling must permeate throughout our entire community. Everyone deserves to live a life in which they feel safe, wanted and respected as an equal and essential person.

I am so proud to live here, and although I am not a Maine native, I feel at home here, and I feel as though I was embraced for being exactly who I am. I want all people to feel this same way. I know this can be accomplished if we do what we do best, and that is work together. Together we can make Maine the way life really should be for all.