Wednesday, August 7, 2013

(Guest Blogger Elizabeth McMeekin)--They Deserve Better Than This From Us. . .

Hey Family,

Please join me in welcoming to the blog my colleague at IMPACT Silver Spring--Elizabeth McMeekin, Network Leader, Resource Development & Strategy.  (Applause!!!)

This past weekend, my husband and I joined Ronnie Galvin and nine boys from the Youth Jobs! Circle to see the movie, Fruitvale Station.    It was a profoundly powerful experience that continues to percolate in my mind and heart, as does the conversation we had with the youth following the movie.  We sat on the plaza in downtown Silver Spring, and listened as the boys commented on the film.  In the process, we heard them start to tell their own experiences as young boys/men  of color living in the Long Branch neighborhood.

Asked if they’d ever had encounters with the police, several of the boys recounted an experience as they were walking through the Long Branch neighborhood on their way to the bus.  They told us that a small group of them were walking along Piney Branch road to catch a bus to downtown Silver Spring.  They said they suddenly found themselves with police cars and officers all around them, asking them lots of questions, taking their photos, wanting to search them.   

As I listened to the conversation, I felt a deep well of sadness.  Sadness that these boys, whom I've come to know well through the many months of working with them to help them get jobs, already have experienced profiling by police (and possibly community members) for perfectly innocent activities.  And more sadness still, in knowing that my own (white) sons, who live in this same neighborhood and have walked countless times along the same road with their group of friends, have never experienced such profiling. 

I also felt a powerful sense of conviction.  These youth have spent their summer doing odd jobs such as landscaping at people’s homes, cleaning out storage areas, helping with child care activities at events,   AND taking summer school classes such as Pre-Calculus – in order to get ahead in school – or working on church-based service projects in West Virginia.  These youth deserve far more from the community they live in than being singled out because of their skin color or hair style.   We, as neighbors, businesses,  and organizational representatives, need to be active creators of chances for these youth to connect with opportunities that will help them achieve their goals for success in school, in work, and in life.