“I can’t breathe!” These words, repeated for over eight minutes by George Floyd as a Minneapolis police officer’s knee bore down on his neck to the point of death, have become an angry protest cry for many in America.
The Association of Black American Ambassadors (ABAA) joins the nation and people of conscience around the world, in mourning the brutal deaths of George Floyd, Ahmed Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black Americans. We offer our prayers and condolences to the Floyd, Arbery and Taylor families and for all those unjustly killed, wounded or detained.
The ABAA condemns the actions that led to the death of George Floyd, which once again bring attention to the longstanding systemic and systematic discrimination against Black people. Equally, the ABAA censures and renounces the mindset and actions borne of racism, sexism and anti-immigrant attitudes that risk making it acceptable to take innocent lives which is antithetical to American and international human rights law. We believe it is time for all people of conscience to voice their opposition to legally sanctioned violence; it is tarnishing America’s image at home and abroad.
The members of the ABAA have represented American foreign policy and American values in Washington and in U.S. embassies and consulates around the world under both Republican and Democratic presidents and secretaries of State. Throughout our service, calling on host governments to uphold their commitments under the UN charter and their own laws was a fundamental duty we took seriously. Most of us have left the active diplomatic service, but as individuals and an organization we have always been and remain committed to human rights, justice, and equity. We oppose all forms of racism and discrimination.
While acts of violence against unarmed Black citizens are not new, we speak now to express our contempt about ongoing acts of police brutality as well as our society’s stubborn resistance to addressing institutional racism. We spent our careers looking beyond America’s borders, but these shocking events call us to look inward and join with others in opposing discrimination and oppression in all its forms. We join our fellow citizens, brothers and sisters in demanding an end to inhumane police practices; we call for accountability, fairness, transparency, and transformation in our national, state and local institutions, including legal, judicial and law enforcement systems, to prevent future violence of this kind.
Our country’s fundamental principles promise every American the same rights to life (breath), liberty and happiness. As the organization representing the country’s most seasoned Black American diplomats, we believe strongly that equal rights and complete pursuit of justice is but the first step needed to rebuild our own citizens’ confidence in our democratic system and values. But, it is also needed to help restore our country’s global human rights authority. We will work with like-minded organizations to demand the development and implementation of policies that put an end to injustice, repression, and violence in our great democracy. We all want an equitable society where each of us has the right to breathe.
Below is a list of ABAA members who have signed the letter, along with their previous post(s) of assignment.
Ambassador Edward J. Perkins
Cynthia H. Akuetteh: Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe
Bernadette Allen: Niger
C. Pat Alsup: The Gambia
Shirley E. Barnes: Republic of Madagascar
Joyce Barr: US Ambassador retired
Clyde Bishop: Republic of the Marshall Islands
Carol Moseley Braun: New Zealand
Aurelia E. Brazeal: Micronesia, Kenya, Ethiopia
Pamela E. Bridgewater: The Republic of Benin and The Republic of Ghana
Reuben E. Brigety: The African Union
Sue K. Brown: Montenegro
Johnnie Carson: Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs
Cook, Suzan Johnson: Ambassador- at- Large For International Religious Freedom
Ruth A. Davis: The Republic of Benin and Director General of the Foreign Service
Horace D. Dawson: Botswana
Harriet L. Elam-Thomas: Senegal
Jendayi Frazer: The Republic of South Africa, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
James Gadsden: Iceland
Irvin Hicks Sr.: Ethiopia
Bonnie Jenkins: Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs
Howard F. Jeter: Nigeria
Mosina Jordan: Central African Republic
Kenton W. Keith: Qatar
Delano E. Lewis: The Republic of South Africa
Dennise Mathieu: Niger and Namibia
C. Steven McGann: Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, The Kingdom of Tonga an Tuvalu
James McGee: Swaziland, Madagascar and the Comoros
Donald McHenry: United Nations
Elizabeth McKune: Qatar
George Moose: Career Ambassador and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Bismarck Myrick: Kingdom of Lesotho
Wanda Nesbitt: adagascar, Cote d’Ivorie and Namibia
Nichols, Brian: Zimbabwe (presently serving)
Adrienne O’Neal: Republic of Cape Verde
Susan D. Page: Republic of South Sudan
Larry Palmer: Republic of Honduras and Barbados and Eastern Caribbean
Maurice Parker: Kingdom of Lesotho and Republic of Liberia
Edward J. Perkins: Republic of Liberia, United Nations, The Republic of South Africa and the Director General of the Foreign Service
June Carter Perry: Lesotho and Sierra Leone
Robert C. Perry: Central African Republic
Charles Ray: Cambodia and Zimbabwe
Helen Patricia Reed-Rowe: Republic of Palau
Reed, Frankie: Fiji, Kirbati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu
Eunice S. Reddick: Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe and Niger
Susan Rice: United Nations and National Security Advisor
Brenda Schoonover: Togo
Mattie R. Sharpless: Central African Republic
Pamela L. Spratlen: Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan
Sylvia Stanfield: Brunei Darussalam
Charles R. Stith: Tanzania
Teddy B.Taylor: Papua New Guinea, The Soloman Islands and the Republic of Vanuatu
Linda Thomas-Greenfield: Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Harry K. Thomas: Bangladesh, The Philippines and Zimbabwe
Barry L. Wells: Republic of the Gambia and Director of the Office of Civil Rights
Sharon P. Wilkinson: Burkina Faso and Mozambique
Bisa Williams: The Republic of Niger
John L. Withers ll: Albania
Johnny Young: Sierra Leone, Togo, Bahrain, and The Republic of Slovenia
This is a statement issued by the Association of Black American Ambassadors
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