Dear SPUT Community,

As we head into August and look to leave summer behind, I am reminded of how challenging this year has been and still is. The pandemic has forced many of us to scramble in our personal and professional lives to ensure the safety and well being of our families.  

I am writing to you all today to remind each of us that while several weeks have passed since the unlawful killing of George Floyd, we should not remain silent in our efforts to help our neighbors, our friends, and our community when it comes to racism. One of our youth leaders said “During the protest, everyone was so supportive after the killing of George Floyd, but the week after the protest, everyone went back to their lives and acted like nothing happened.” Combating racism is not a one-and-done action, but an ongoing fight to ensure that all people have a fair chance at living a quality life without fear of being judged and oppressed. 

As an organization that prides itself on community relationships and diversity and inclusion, it breaks our hearts to see our staff, our youth, and our community hurting. For 29 years, Saint Paul Urban Tennis has not, and will not, tolerate racism or acts of hate toward any member of our community. We are steadfast in our mission to provide equitable access and opportunities for all participants. SPUT is committed to increasing our efforts to combat racism and advance equity through more dialogue with all of you. We want to hear about your experiences, your ideas, and your hopes and dreams for your children.  

As a young male executive of color, I have seen my fair share of racially charged acts. From getting trash dumped on me when I was a teenager, to being accused of stealing a credit card while standing in line at the grocery store (even though I was nowhere close to the person), to being recently mistaken as a maintenance worker (while serving as the Executive Director), I know the pain of being judged by my skin color and the feeling of being unable to do anything about it. I hope that we all stay alert and aware of how members of our communities are perceived and the challenges they may face.

As an anchor youth organization in Saint Paul, SPUT is dedicated to ensuring everyone feels safe, supported, and welcomed. In the next several months, we will be working on additional steps at the board, staff, and organization levels to create space for youth, families and staff to have open conversations about how SPUT can continue to strengthen our community through our work. And through our leadership program, we will incorporate more ways for youth to be part of the positive change needed to end racism in our community and our world. 

I will make these efforts a priority for myself, my staff, and our organization. Stay tuned for more details and information in the next couple of weeks. If you would like to assist our efforts, please reach out to me. Thank you and stay safe and well.

Sincerely,

Song Thao, Executive Director