Today, I write with a sad heart.  The killing of George Floyd has opened up a floodgate of emotions that brought with it the overwhelming memories of injustice against marginalized people that I have witnessed far too many times in my life. I have taken some time to process, feel, and reflect thoughtfully on what to say and more importantly what to do.  Too often I feel there is a rush to say ‘something’ without really saying anything.

It is terrifying to see hate, anger, bullying, and inconceivable actions that take a human life for no reason. There are so many kind and genuine people who really do want to do good and serve our communities well, that it hurts to know there are those that wield their power through discrimination using force, control and intimidation in all forms- blatantly, subtly, and systematically.

As a leader in our community, a woman with a disability, and the founder of an organization that, at its core, is about creating equal opportunities I want you to know that I see you. I hear you. I stand with you.

It saddens me that in a country that is so richly diverse the differences that should be celebrated – whether its race, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation –  are used against us to push us down, keep us down, make us feel lesser than and live in fear. I must admit, I pray that I do not get pulled over while I am driving on the highway—I’m sickened that I have had to think through a preemptive plan if I encounter the police. I know as a white woman with a disability that may be hard to believe- but I am vulnerable to the ignorance of others in power. I have seen that ignorance turn to anger and ultimately end in brutality and death for people with disabilities.

We all have stories to tell and voices to be heard. And if you do not have stories you need to listen to those that do with an open heart and mind. We can all get mad (yes, I do that, too), stay mad (not helpful), we can shut down (only for a short time to regroup), and then we can grow beyond it.

What happened in Minneapolis is an assault on humanity, what happens everyday to black and brown people is an assault on humanity, what happens to marginalized people in our communities is an assault on humanity…it is time to take back that one thing that binds us all together. Show the human side, acknowledge our shared pain, and SEE what connects us. If we’re willing to recognize the vulnerabilities that we all have, we will be able to stand together.

At Bridge II Sports we sum up our mission with the phrase “Challenging Perceptions of Disability ONE Game at a Time” – we chip away piece-by-piece with the tool of sport at the misconceptions and prejudices of disability.

I think to us this has taken on a new and larger meaning now—for us to Challenge our own Perceptions and the Perceptions in our community ONE interaction, ONE decision, ONE action at a time. To be mindful in all we do and stand with those whose voices are not heard.
We are challenging the members of our team to decide on an action to take individually to truly effect change- small steps that can grow as we come together and find solidarity in fighting for human rights, dignity and equality of opportunity.

BridgeNation knows what it is like to be treated lesser-than.  We know some of what it feels like to be marginalized.  We stand with the Black community. I call on all of us to use goodness, strength, and care towards all of our neighbors indiscriminately. Can we offer dignity because we understand the hurt?
Let us unite for good in our communities.  Let us all commit to overcome discrimination in all its forms.  We will make our communities healthy. May our strength of character offer hope.

Building Bridges Together-

Ashley Thomas
Founder & CEO
Bridge II Sports