Dear Cornerstone Families and Friends,
My heart is heavy as I write this letter – my last letter as the President of Cornerstone – because of the suffering, turmoil, and division in our city, country, and world. Already grieving the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of God’s people around the world, we now are grieving the unjust tragic deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Their senseless killings have rightfully ignited protests around the country, reminding us all, once again, that prejudice, hatred, and inequality are rampant in America and remain unchecked.
Who I am grieving for the most right now are the students and families of Cornerstone Christian Academy that I so dearly love and to whom I have been committed in service for almost 20 years. One hundred percent of our students are children of color. These kids and their parents, as well as the teachers and staff of the school, are family to me. I love them and am so grateful for the ways they have enriched my life and inspired my faith in Jesus Christ. Because of them, I cannot remain silent in the face of recurring racism that threatens the lives of the members of my Cornerstone family, as well as the lives of all God’s children of color.
I naively believed over 50 years ago that the United States was going to change as a result of the Civil Rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of “the fierce urgency of now” to make justice a reality for all of God’s children, especially African-Americans. Small steps have been taken, but clearly we are far away from tearing down the structures of racism that limit and threaten the lives of God’s children of color.
Limiting quality educational opportunities has always been and continues to be one of the ways to maintain economic, social, and racial inequality. It’s been used, like a knee on the neck, to suffocate the hopes and dreams of Black and Brown children. Cornerstone Christian Academy was established to combat the injustices of the education system and to give underserved children the academic and spiritual foundations to become women and men of influence and leadership. That remains our mission today; to educate children, especially children from underserved families, in an environment that provides the highest standards for academic achievement and spiritual development. To that end, we reject all forms of hatred, racism, and violence. We honor the dignity and value of all God’s children, and we instruct our students to respect and celebrate themselves as well as others.
I never imagined these would be my parting words as the President and CEO of Cornerstone Christian Academy. But I guess it makes sense, because my love is so great for the students, families, teachers, staff, volunteers, and generous supporters of our mission. Please, I pray, keep the bright light of hope Cornerstone casts for children shining brightly in southwest Philadelphia. Let this wonderful school continue to be a peaceful home where faith, hope, justice, and love live in the hearts of all and are modeled for others to follow.
Richard Ollinger, President/CEO
P.S. Below are several links with resources to help educate and facilitate conversations with children about race issues.
- National Geographic: Talking to Kids About Race
- Parent Toolkit – How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism
- 31 Childrens’ books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance