April 5, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information contact:
Elizabeth Jones Valderrama, OAR
OAR HOSTS VIRTUAL BREAKFAST
DRAWS RACIAL ZOOM BOMBING
Hackers disrupted an April 2nd online fundraising breakfast hosted on the video call platform Zoom by OAR of Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church, voicing and posting racist comments at the beginning of the event. Organizers acted promptly to mute all guests, deactivate the chat function, and “eject” as many of the hackers as possible.
“These attacks underscore the importance of OAR’s work to undo racism and assist those impacted by mass incarceration,” said Rev. Dr. Kathy Dwyer, who chairs OAR’s Board of Directors and serves as senior pastor at Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ in Arlington, Virginia.
“Some guests may have been shocked by the hacking,” Dwyer said. “But we’ve come to understand that people of color – including OAR staff and program participants – experience this type of racism every day of their lives and that all of us need to challenge racial inequity and systemic injustices in our community.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, last Thursday’s video call replaced OAR’s Annual Second Chance Fundraising Breakfast, an in-person event that typically brings together 600 members of the community to learn more about OAR’s work.
Major media outlets, including NPR, CNN, and the New York Times have described Zoom bombing as a form of cyber-harassment that is increasing rapidly as more people utilize video call technology to communicate at this time of social distancing. The dramatic increase in these attacks prompted an FBI warning last week and ongoing efforts by Zoom to protect app users.
“The racist attacks were disheartening but not unexpected,” said OAR Executive Director Elizabeth Jones Valderrama. “Ironically, we were explaining to our supporters why we’ve expanded our mission to include upstream efforts to undo racism in addition to downstream services that help individuals have a safe reentry from incarceration.”
Founded in 1974, OAR is a community-based nonprofit working with men and women returning to the community from incarceration and offering alternative sentencing options through community service to youth and adults. Race equity is a core goal at OAR, and the organization seeks to promote equity in the legal system and across all systems.
In 2019, OAR worked with 708 men and women who had experienced incarceration as well as 1,334 adults and youth performing community service. Since last fall, OAR has hosted four intensive Undoing Racism® workshops for 180 people, most of whom live or work in Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. The organization also started and continues to facilitate a Race Equity Action Network focused on undoing racism.
“We get calls every day from participants for help with food, rent, and other necessities,” said Jones Valderrama. “We know a lot of people are hurting in our country right now, and we need those who can still give to help us be on the journey with those most marginalized.”
To donate, visit us online at https://www.oaronline.org/donate/donate-now.
If you would like to learn more about OAR or the event visit our website at www.OARonline.org or contact OAR’s Executive Director, Elizabeth Jones Valderrama, at 703-228-7441 or firstname.lastname@example.org