Let's All Breathe- by Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE

By Adam Natali posted 06-04-2020 12:43


"I Can't Breathe" are three words that changed the world. These are the final words spoken by George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis. These are the final words heard from Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in New York City from excessive force used by law enforcement. These despicable crimes are happening far too often. The black and brown communities cannot breathe until there is a greater level of accountability in addressing the systemic racism in America, and all communities unite for a cure.

As a black female, I grieve because these words could have been spoken by my brothers, uncles, cousins and friends. These words are forever engraved in my soul, because it reminds me there is more work ahead and complacency has no place.

While this is a tense time for everyone, and there is so much raw pain and emotion, the peaceful protests are an opportunity to elevate the voices of those seeking to be heard. It is the youth who are driving the change and demanding that we uphold the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Let's open our minds and hearts as we start to reopen our world. Please use this as an opportunity to have deep and meaningful conversations with someone from a different race or ethnic background. Someone you wouldn't normally associate with. Seek to authentically understand their journey and path. How did it shape their life?  Be consistent in your compassion to develop a meaningful connection. Let's move from not breathing to breathing together.

How do we breathe? People want change and action. It is a systematic approach. Let's move from protest to voting for policy change. Let's move from statements to action. This isn't a black or white issue or a partisan issue. It is a humanity issue. We are all created equal and want to be treated fairly. We want a welcoming environment. An environment that creates a sense of belonging and connectedness, that engages individuals in an authentic manner, in which uniqueness is valued, respected, and supported through opportunities and interaction.

Bias, discrimination and racism have no place at Association Forum. We represent association professionals from all backgrounds who are committed to advancing the practice of association management in their industries and to social justice for all. We are committed to uniting with our members to be agents of change and unity.

Let's use this moment as an opportunity to hear, heal and help. It is time to change the narrative and uplift the conversations for a united and peaceful tomorrow.

What is Association Forum doing?



  • Producing educational opportunities for Chicagoland associations to understand the importance of racial justice, equal rights, and the issues faced by marginalized communities.
  • Developing a "No Tolerance" statement that bias and discrimination has no place in the Chicagoland association community.


  • Partnering with the State of Illinois and City of Chicago on its recovery and reconciliation plans.
  • Leveraging the Association Forum Internship Program for under-represented communities to discover association management as a career path.
  • Aligning with industry coalitions to advocate for equality and systematic reform.
  • Disseminate the Welcoming Environment Research to associations to inform decisions on diversity, equity and inclusion that will lead to change. To request  the Welcoming Environment Research Executive Summary, please email executiveoffice@associationforum.org. The Welcoming Environment Executive Summary will be available in July 2020.
  • The Spark Hope Now webinar series led by Simon T. Bailey.

We know the problems. Let's unite on solutions. Let's all breathe.

Donate to the Cause:

  • George Floyd's family started a GoFundMe to cover funeral and burial costs; counseling services; legal fees; and continued care for his children.    
  • Black Lives Matter
  • The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which supports racial justice through advocacy, litigation, and education.

Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE
President and CEO
Association Forum
1 comment



06-04-2020 13:27

Thanks for your thoughtful and heartfelt words and ideas, Michelle.