Community Change Inc’s statement on Horace
Some people think, some people do, a select few people combine those two, and still others go above and beyond all of those, committing themselves to change and dedicating their lives to make it happen. Horace Seldon was in that last category.
The assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. coupled with the racial tensions of the late 1960s certainly shaped his life’s direction. But what perhaps defined it most clearly came out of the Kerner Commission report that found that the United States was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal” and noted that “What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain, and white society condones it.” These findings and words would be the driving force that led a then 45-year-old Horace to create Community Change Inc.
Horace understood that dismantling racism meant addressing the white problem in the U.S at at time when words such as white privilege and white supremacy were not part of the common lexicon. In creating CCI, Horace was a man who truly was ahead of his time and, in many ways, he is the godfather of today’s racial justice movement and of white anti-racists. Although, as I write this, I can easily imagine that Horace would scoff at such a description.
Horace, as the founding director of CCI, created a space and a community for people to understand that the personal is political and that racism is a system that infects every institution in our lives. Under Horace, CCI worked to make racism visible in all its subtle as well as obvious forms and to challenge the historic and ongoing role racism plays in our lives. Through CCI, he emphasized that any positive change in race relations would require white people to understand the roles whiteness plays in upholding systems of oppression and actively and intentionally working against a system that inherently and explicitly privileges whiteness.
Under Horace, CCI developed civil rights leadership development and internship programs, including a relationship with Boston College and the school’s PULSE program through which CCI would become a site for community service field placement for students interested in learning how to dismantle racism. CCI under Horace also offered forums, conference and other events. In 1998, then-President Bill Clinton recognized CCI as among 300 “promising practices” for improving race relations in the U.S.
Horace was also a prolific writer and, in the course of his almost 30 year tenure as founding director, he regularly wrote essays and articles with a focus on the many aspects of racism. Many of the pieces were written specifically for the CCI newsletter but represent a comprehensive framework for understanding racism in America.
CCI is closing in on its 50th anniversary in the spring of 2018 and while Horace stepped down as founding director a number of years ago, his spirit and energy are still very much a driving force behind CCI. Every director since Horace stepped down has been very much inspired by Horace and his passion in running CCI and in staying true to the mission that was created under him. Given the current state of affairs as we battle a white nationalist in the White House and the rise of facism, we remain committed to addressing the white problem and creating a space for learning and action.