Just over two weeks ago, the United States of America observed its 152nd Memorial Day. Founded to commemorate the lives lost in the American Civil War, Memorial Day stands as a day of remembrance for the brave American citizens that have passed while in service for their country in order to ensure the luxuries and freedoms we enjoy today.

This year was different. In the midst of a global pandemic, we received a stark reminder that these “luxuries and freedoms” are not equal. 

“On May 25, Minneapolis resident George Floyd was pinned facedown on the ground, in handcuffs, by a white police officer who pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. He was unresponsive when paramedics arrived, and he was pronounced dead later.”- The Washington Post

George Floyd’s death is yet another case of an unarmed Black man being murdered by the police. Over the past two weeks, Americans in all 50 states have come together to speak up and fight back against the systemic racism existing within our unjust systems by taking to the streets in unprecedented levels of civil unrest and protest. Justice has been demanded for not just George Floyd, but for all those in the Black community that have not been given a fair opportunity to experience freedom and equality within the United States. 

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Philando Castile. 

We hope to look back on Memorial Day 2020 as the beginning to the end of America’s mistreatment of and negligence toward the Black community. Memorial Day will remain a day of remembrance for those who have lost their lives in order to guarantee freedom and equality- from those who fought in the Civil War for the abolition of slavery to those whose loss of life inspired social change today.

Many American people have spoken. We need to rectify the injustices of our past and present and make the Black experience in the United States equal.  In the words of author James Baldwin, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Starcity is facing the pain inflicted upon our family members and neighbors, and we’re not shying away.  

What Now? 

Starcity’s mission is to make great cities accessible to everyone. Our mission drives us to be involved in many social issues concerning “access” for “everyone.” 

Building affordable housing in the best cities in the world is one of the best ways that we as a company can bring equality of opportunity to more people. A lower cost, high quality place to live within the best job markets will make a lasting impact on equality within our society. 

As we work on ways to further contribute to this problem, we always want to reassure our members of the efforts we’re implementing. 

On Monday, June 1, 2020 we sent out the following to our members:

Dear Starcitizens,

We stand with the Black community today, before today, and for as long as we are around. The current level of injustice is not something we can ignore. We must all do our part. Starcity is committing, today, to look at ways we can contribute to creating long term change in this injustice. We have a platform where we are ingrained in local communities and we have the opportunity to help where many others can’t. We resolve to support the protesters, the activists, the change-makers. We are kind and empathetic at heart and want to make things better. We must not sit idly by while Black members of every community are not getting a fair chance at life.

If you’re making a donation to a cause that is near and dear to the fight against racial injustice, I will personally match your donation. Please respond to me directly and we can coordinate.

We will continue to communicate with you over the coming weeks about our efforts and wish you all the best during these difficult times.

Jon Dishotsky

First and foremost, we have assembled an internal team of volunteers at Starcity dedicated to researching how Starcity can better promote Black causes and support the Black community. Our team will be grouping our efforts into three areas: Financial Support, Events & Experiences, and Starcity Operations. 

Financial Support

Our focus for Financial Support will be on the collection and distribution of funds towards Black causes and businesses. We’re proud to say that in just one week our employees, Starcity members, investors and friends donated over $10,000 for causes like Black Lives Matter, Black Vision Collective, We the Protestors, Reclaim the Block, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, ACCE Action, Campaign Zero, Know Your Rights Camp, Compton’s Transgender Cultural District and more.  

In addition to the donations, we are developing an aggregated list of Black-owned businesses operating within the neighborhoods of our coliving communities. As an example, we have two communities in Oakland, California. These are and have been predominantly black communities. We will continue to focus on procuring goods and services from these organizations while amplifying these businesses across our platforms. Please check back soon to find the list. 

Events & Experiences

For Events & Experiences we will focus on one of the things that Starcity does best – building community by fostering person-to-person connections. Many of our members are joining the call to action, and we’re going to start by connecting them to build a stronger force.  

As mentioned, Starcity’s mission is to make great cities accessible to everyone. We want to make sure when we’re talking about access and everyone, we have events that cater to every type of culture, specifically those which have a long and storied history in the neighborhoods that we operate in. 

We’ll be offering events and expanding our clubs to allow those who want to connect on these issues a forum to do so.  For example, we are currently coordinating a member event to host a BIPOC thought leader who can speak to the pressing matter of systemic racism and allyship, guiding our members to interpret their emotional responses into productive actions. 

We want to expand past our typical event programming to offer a branch of events and workshops focused on advocacy, social responsibility, and emotional intelligence. By providing our members outlets to get involved in each of these areas we hope to create benefits for our communities for the rest of their lives. 

One of our members, Kamilah A. in our Marina Del Rey location has also started a wonderful Kickstarter campaign to create mugs in support of a more racially tolerant community. We have contributed to her campaign and if you would like to, you can do so too here.

Operations

The priority for the Starcity operations team will be looking at how we can better improve our diversity of perspectives, which comes from lived experiences across races and the gender spectrum. Extending from our operational procedures in everything from hiring to leasing, we will be working to address any practice that could have stood as a barrier of entry for Black people at Starcity.

To start, we are reexamining our approval process for new members. Leasing has historically taken into consideration biases and negative markers such as credit history that disproportionately affect people of color. By rethinking our approach to weighing these factors we hope to design a more fair and equal process.

As for our internal efforts, we will start by addressing the makeup of our team. Our leadership team is committed to finding the best tools to prevent bias so that we can ameliorate internalized racial prejudice that exists in our current recruiting and interviewing practices. We will cast a wider net in recruiting in order to ensure a more diverse set of candidates. 

Finally, Jon, our CEO and cofounder, will personally commit to supporting Black entrepreneurs through angel investments in Black-owned start-ups. 

Conclusion 

This is just the beginning, and we know it’s not enough. By taking these initial steps we will begin laying the groundwork for a Starcity that plays its part in championing equality for the Black community. Not just for right now, but for the long term. We have always welcomed feedback and discourse from the public and invite you to do the same now. If you have any suggestions of where Starcity can get more active in supporting the Black community please do not be afraid to let us know.

Starcity will always continue to work hard to make great cities accessible to everyone. We cannot accomplish our Mission until changes are made to ensure that Black Lives Matter