Invest In Young Black LeadershipJun 16, 2020
Tune in on Facebook Live on Thursday, June 16 at 8PM ET for Community Conversations with the Young Black Leadership Aliance (YBLA)
BLACK LIVES MATTER.
It's been said for all of time, yet it feels like we (as in everyone other than black people) have only really been paying attention since that horrifying video on May 25th. A video I couldn't even bring myself to watch in entirety because it was so blatantly inhumane.
In the last twenty days, I've consumed hundreds of pieces of content from blank black tiles, news articles, angry tweets and calls to action trying to understand what this all means. As an Asian-American, I've always known racism existed, but to what extent and to what detriment, I stayed willfully ignorant.
Yes, I've experienced plenty of racism in my own lifetime. Variations of "ching chong." assumptions of my mathematical prowess, my inability to drive. The persistent messaging that I should keep my head down, be a hard worker, stay silent and society will reward you -- that was from my own family and Asian friends.
Even in COVID-19 times, I bought masks long before they were necessary because frankly, I just wanted to look like a K-pop star. Suddenly, I felt so embarrassed to wear them in the early stages of lock down for fear I would be mistaken for Chinese, and shunned, as the President made okay to do.
Frankly, that's the worst I've had to fear -- that I would get a mean stare or a nasty comment at the grocery store. I've never had to fear getting killed for shopping, jogging or sleeping in my own home, just because of the way I looked.
Consuming content is a good place to start, but it's not enough. Saying black lives matter, and posting it on your feed is a good start, but it's not enough. I started thinking of ways to support black businesses and spent money there, but it wasn't enough. I wanted to find black organizations I could help, and I realized I learn best when I have conversations with real people. I asked friends and #debtcrushers to share organizations they loved.
One friend recommended the Young Black Leadership Alliance. I got to meet John and Tammy, the beautiful couple who founded this group to build leaders who will positively impact their peers, families and communities, and that will eventually change the world. They focus on helping our young people become leaders that are college and career ready. As our young leaders strive to succeed, they are trained to reach back and mentor elementary, middle and high school students. They believe in Leadership, Service and Education. They are also the most cheerful, engaging and joyful couple I've met in a long time, or ever, for that matter.
They invited me to listen in to their series of frank discussions about where we are as a country, but more importantly what we can do to move us forward in peace, progress, respect, fairness, and safety. I couldn't wait to hear what was being said in our local Black community.
The first discussion was a round table of their high school and college students discussing the impact of George Floyd's murder and the ongoing protests. It took my breath away, just listening to these smart, thoughtful young adults talk about reform, about fear and about hope, growing up as Black Americans. One young lady said that seeing the video, she felt de-sensitized, because seeing a black man getting killed didn't seem surprising. I thought to myself, "When I was their age, all I worried about was being young and dumb." That was slap in the face of how much privilege I never knew I carried.
The second discussion was for parents of black children. I listened to the fears and concerns of a single mom and an interracial couple raising a blended family. I learned so much more than anything I watched on social media or read in the news. I shared what I learned with my friends and family. My husband and I talked about how we never knew, and honestly, how we probably never will really understand it because we won't experience it.
Even if you're not ready to have uncomfortable conversations, just listening is a good start. This Thursday, YBLA is hosting the last of the series with community partners. I'm honored to participate in it and hope you will join us. The more we listen and share our experiences, I'm hopeful we can build a world we're proud to leave to our young leaders to protect.
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