Our Children Deserve Better
How we feel about ourselves and how we treat others is directly connected to the following childhood experiences:
(1) The relationships that we have with adults
(2) The books & other reading materials that we read
(3) The things we see and watch on television, tablets and screens
(4) The schools that we attend
(5) The communities that we live in
I live 2.5 miles away from where George Floyd was murdered and I cannot help but to think about all of the experiences that lead Derek Chauvin to the decision to press his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 15 seconds. How do children — who are born knowing no prejudice and no hatred become racists… misogynists… murderers? How did Derek’s childhood and upbringing lead him to his actions?
After George Floyd’s Murder I felt so many emotions — fear, anger and frustration. What could I do? The first action that I took was to create this Anti-Racism resource page. I have also been contracted by a few corporations to support their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) work, similar to projects that I’ve worked on in the past (pre-uprising) including helping a University think through how to increase diversity in one of their professional schools. All of my work with adults is pretty reactive in nature in that so many of our ideas & thoughts about ourselves and others are crystalized in adulthood. Though we can change and improve behavior, it is a much heavier lift.
I think back to my days in the classroom as a High School Teacher and can remember students telling me “you are the first Black Teacher I’ve ever had, and you’re also my favorite,” or the beautifully complicated yet rewarding experience of having a diverse group of teenagers reading and discussing Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. I can remember having my first roommate and being asked “do you wash your hair with berries?” The lines of race and class although invisible in the light, are very clearly defined and triggering — similar to the red laser security lights in action movies. Now that America is in this very dark period — those beams are bright and have strong & painful consequences when crossed. While I believe the work with adults is very important and will continue that, I believe the most important work is with kids and youth.
I’ll never forget learning about and “meeting” my personal sheroe — Ella Baker as a student in the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom Schools Program. It was also there that I learned about the Little Rock 9, and so many other important historical figures and events. I’ll never forget meeting Aloida Zaragosa — the Director of the Upward Bound Program that supported my decision and work to attend college. She was a woman of color and one of the first that I’d ever seen in such an important leadership position. It was my favorite English Teacher Melissa Borgmann — a white woman, who amplified my voice as a teenager and introduced me to so many of my favorite authors & books including Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls. Anti-racism work is pro-humanity work.
It is difficult to become what you can’t see. How can you become compassionate and empathetic to people who are different from you, if you are not around people who are different from you? I kept thinking about what I could and should do and just like that — my friend Lauren Burke and her friend (now my friend lol) Prisma Hererra called me about an idea to host virtual classes centered around social justice. I was immediately sold because I truly believe that our ideas about the world are formed when we are young and they just get reinforced (really ingrained and engraved) as we get older. It’s like the tracks are built when we are kids, and then all trains travel over those tracks (wherever they start and end) over and over again. In 10 days, we built the framework for Camp Equity and are now recruiting Campers. While it may be true that we are not directly responsible for the past — we inherit the past and are caretakers of the future. Things are the way that they are today, because of intentional choices made by others yesterday and whether we like it or not, those choices impact and affect us in the same way that our choices will impact and affect the future.
It is my hope that through Camp Equity, our Campers meet their heroes & sheroes — people who show them what’s possible, people who demystify very confusing things and people who encourage them to make their communities, their cities, their states, our country and our world better for us all. I also don’t like to think about progress being so distant or “possible”, I like to think that progress is here and it is happening. If that were not the case — you could be reading a very different story from and about me and so many others who transmute pain and difficult circumstances to hope & service to and for others.
I want to encourage you to share this story, as well as Camp Equity with others. As my co-founder Lauren says, “changing the world is a group project!”