Marina Kim

Marina co-founded and leads Ashoka U, working with campuses to embed social innovation as an educational focus and core value of the university culture.

An Open Letter to our Community on Racial Justice

This week, we join the many millions who are grieving the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee, and countless other of Black men and women who have died at the hands of systemic racism and injustice. Their deaths happened against a backdrop of a global pandemic that has amplified a sense of physical division and fear, economic destruction, and hundreds of thousands of lives lost – all of which have also disproportionately affected communities of color.

This is a moment of reckoning. Ashoka U recognizes that the pain and suffering of today has roots in a long history of wide-ranging, systemic social and racial injustice. It’s critical to publicly acknowledge the toxic effect of institutionalized white supremacy that has tainted our collective histories. We stand in solidarity with and support the many colleagues and organizations working toward a more just and equitable world.

As a community of changemakers, educators, and leaders committed to the values of systemic change, we must learn from and listen to those acutely impacted by these social and racial injustices. As changemakers, we must tap into our empathy, and activate ourselves and our communities for positive change.  As educators, we must closely examine who is able to engage in higher education and more importantly, who is not. As individuals, we must ensure that we understand the history of racial injustice and oppression and guide our students to do the same. As leaders, we must amplify the voices, perspectives, and leadership of communities of color, many of whom have been here, innovating and changemaking long before us.

We are hopeful that true and just leadership will prevail and enable an equity-centered mindset. We believe higher education can model a culture that not just talks about diversity, but actively dismantles structural racism and replaces it with values of inclusion and equity throughout. We invite our network to embody the qualities of leadership that will be key to reconstructing systems: empathy, humility, collaboration, the ability to invite in all voices, deep listening, and sitting with discomfort amidst important processes of change. We must step into new ways of being, relating, and knowing.

We invite you all to stand with the communities that are most impacted by social and racial injustice. In the coming weeks and months, we will be looking for innovations that emerge from our network, and plan to continue amplifying examples of how higher education institutions are leading this change. At Ashoka U, we are also taking time to open dialogue within our own team and across Ashoka to examine our roles in both the perpetuation of structural racism and what might be required for healing.

In the meantime, if you are looking for more information about organizations who are on the front lines of the fight for social justice we recommend these Ashoka Fellows as well as the NAACP, Color of Change, and Grassroots Law Project. Additional resources are available at the bottom of this post.

Marina Kim, Executive Director + Ashoka U team


Resources on Systemic Racism in the US:

Antiracist Baby by Ibrahim X Kendi (available June 16, 2020)

Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders by Angelou Ezeilo

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y Davis

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibrahim X Kendi

Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibrahim X Kendi

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism by Robin D’Angelo

31 Children’s Books to support conversations on race, racism, and resistance.


See the growing list of books, articles, movies, podcasts, videos, and other resources curated by Ashoka staff member Hélène Lesage of Ashoka Canada. If in the US, please consider purchasing from a black-owned bookstore and black-owned business.