AFS-USA Statement on Racial Justice
AFS Intercultural Programs began as the American Ambulance Field Service, a volunteer ambulance corps created in April 1915 by A. Piatt Andrew. In 1947, AFS was transformed from a wartime humanitarian aid organization into a groundbreaking international secondary school exchange, volunteer, and intercultural learning organization with a noble vision: to help build a more just and peaceful world by promoting understanding across cultures. However, while our founders returned to the U.S. as heroes, the Black veterans of the war returned home to a country that continued to disenfranchise them, cause them harm, and overlook their critical sacrifices to our country. Unfortunately, the racism that existed then still exists now – and we are committed to our participation and responsibility toward reducing inequalities, promoting social justice, and dismantling white supremacy.
AFS-USA joins the people of our nation and the world who are outraged by the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Oluwatoyin Salau, and far too many others. We strongly support protests across our nation, and we support individuals and movements such as Black Lives Matter who call for change…for action, now. We echo you: Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter. We need to support Black communities through meaningful and appropriate funding from the state and federal level.
Our organization has important and past due work in front of us. Intercultural education and volunteerism are at the heart of all that we do at AFS-USA. We bear witness every single day at how, by opening peoples’ minds and exposing them to new people, cultures, and experiences, we can change our perspectives and respect and embrace our differences as we foster lifelong friendships.
On June 19th, 2020, AFS-USA will be permanently recognizing Juneteenth as an official holiday for our staff, and we invite you to join us in celebrating Black lives, taking time for education, and reflecting on the ways that we can dismantle the systems and structures of white supremacy. This recognition is by no means a conclusion, nor barely a start, to the important work we must do.
One person can make a difference. We are grateful to all people in our nation and around the world who are peacefully protesting, speaking out, talking with their neighbors, and sharing their thoughts in the wake of brutality.
Our organizational mission calls upon us to make the world a more just and peaceful home for everyone. It is precisely in a moment such as this one where each of us, united and determined, can move us closer to the peace and justice that we value and uphold over all else.