Yesterday I listened to a conversation with black youth that changed my life. I have lived but not with intent and purpose until this past year. Not even with an unwavering commitment to becoming anti-racist in my work until recently. Granted the pandemic and the George Floyd killing and protests played a role, but connecting with people, some new, some old, some unexpected has made me into a woman with vision, conviction too of what to do to bring radical healing to all black youth. I am prepared to work with anyone interested in creating a space for black youth to reimagine a better way for their health. I am prepared to support them so they can act on whatever vision they want for their health.
Prior to the start of the summer, I was part of a group that wrote a radical proposal to bring healing and transformation to a generation in desperate need for their voices to be heard. This call for radical healing is part of what Dr. Shawn Ginwright advocates in his book Black Youth Rising. He calls for the use of unconventional strategies that inspire youth to act towards personal restoration for their health and wellness and demands institutional change and justice for all black youths. Moreover when communities come together, when we do so with the sole objective to thrive and not merely survive, Dr Ginwright suggested that these new approaches will not only rebuild hope, but will also foster healing from years of oppressive social, economic, educational conditions. We were sold and wrote our proposal with his emancipatory vision in mind. The grant reviewers thought otherwise and didn’t even discuss our grant. To them what we proposed, that black youth may have the audacity to rise and act to resist social marginalization while confronting inequities with their health wasn’t transformational enough. We respectfully disagree. Yesterday proved we are on to something.
Though we were not successful, one thing we did not do ourselves was listen to black youth themselves beyond the articles we read and reviewed. We did so yesterday. I am forever in awe and totally grateful for the insight 6 black youth shared with us yesterday. They were open. Nothing out of the ordinary, but with their unique voices and perspectives with life often not represented in our public health field. They felt heard and seen. Felt loved too and protected. They dreamed of dreams they felt could be achieved and healing they desperately want to achieve. We listened under the guidance of Alexis, our extraordinary tour guide, as they shared parts of themselves they felt society fails to recognize exists. By the time our one hour meeting was over, I was ready to scream, shout too, with an eloquent rage. Enough is enough. Black youth, all youth need anti-racist response to their health. Not the response that is tokenism, or a space filler, or even top down and carried out by so-called experts, myself and those in my field included, but the one they control. They would do it for free too if we let them. We are prepared to do so. The details are still murky, but our vision is clear. There is a need for black youth to rise. A black youth rising movement too with health. We are ready to start the journey with them. Join us if you may. Or watch as we finally create a platform where all black youth, all youth can arise. Either way, we are prepared to ensure they arise.