Reflections on Equity: A Necessary Space to Discuss Recent Injustices
On January 14, 2021, afterschool professionals and partners joined Prime Time Palm Beach County to engage in frank discussions in response to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The event began with an opening from Prime Time’s SEL Specialist Knellee Bisram who made participants feel they were safe to join in on a discussion around race-based issues that are often a delicate task but crucial to uniting groups of people.
Prime Time facilitators and attendees acknowledged that we are products of the cultural conditioning in this society. Together we must recognize and name the racial tension and the feelings we are experiencing because it helps demystify its source and meaning. Healing starts with learning, conversations and shared resources.
Prime Time Trainer Gwyn Williams asked participants, “What emotions does news of the insurrection at the Capitol raise for you?”
Below is a sample of attendee responses:
“I feel a lot of anger towards the situation. Anger towards the people involved, people who are defending them, the house members who were supporting their actions, etc.” – OST Practitioner
“I felt upset and how easy it was for a certain group of people to storm the Capitol.” – OST Practitioner
Participants were asked to share their feelings after hearing and watching that certain groups got as far as they did in the Capitol but knowing just this past summer the violent attacks that occurred to the Black Lives Matter protestors.
One attendee answered, “when talking to our youth, there is no way not to acknowledge the elephant in the room, which is the white supremacy on display for everyone to see.”
One of Prime Time’s expanded learning opportunity provider,Youth Speak Out International, shared a video clip from a session with youth where one teen expressed her opinion on the events that occurred at the Capitol.
“They were being very violent towards the (Black Lives Matter) protestors and when Wednesday happened (at the Capitol), I’m not saying they were calmer or not trying to get everything under control, but I feel like on the inside they were like ‘oh I wish I could join in.’ That is kind of how they were acting.” – Youth
Participants were placed in breakout rooms with one facilitator from Prime Time’s Equity Committee to have an open dialogue around how we as adults can respond to the emotions youth are feeling in response to the current events happening in our nation.
Comments from the breakout rooms are below:
1. “Words matter. We must be intentional about calling out what is – riot vs. protest vs. insurrection and we must explain the differences to young people.”
2. “Some members of the older black and brown generations are tired/apathetic as to whether systems built on white supremacy will ever change. It is necessary to keep talking to young people about how they can make change.”
3. “Many White people lack awareness of the “talk” that Black and Brown parents have with their children – especially with Black boys. It is important to share that to bring awareness.”
4. “Black and Brown males face struggles and limitations with simple things like how they can/can’t wear their hair because something like wearing it in dreads or twists makes them appear more dangerous to police – they can’t just live and be who they want to be.”
5. “Conversations are so important, not only to know who you are around, but to also try to understand other perspectives which may be different than what your parents or grandparents may have taught you (relevant for adults and youth).”
6. “Allow students to see that we have emotions, but we are able to control our emotions by teaching them to have self-control, accountability, leadership and integrity based upon what happened at the insurrection.”
7. “Teach them how to ask the right questions and to know that no questions are ignorant when they want to know something.”
8. “It’s important to come in with an open mind so that you can make decisions and seek understanding.”
9. “Self-help starts with us (adults). “We want to be understood, but we don’t want to understand.”
10. “We, as adults, have to destroy our ignorance and have conversations without emotions. “The only one you can control is yourself raise our levels of accountability. We, as adults, need to be able to agree to disagree.”
11. “There is a real need to know history of other countries. Insurrections happen elsewhere, coups happen, takedown of governments and democracies happen. Important to build awareness – because it can happen anywhere and young people can change the odds.”
12. “Really know the history of THIS country, which has normalized white supremacy. Our youth are indoctrinated into the system because they are not taught the true history.”
13. “The struggle for equity is not that of Black and Brown people alone but is the work of White people.”
Attendees left with a resource packet titled, Reflections on Equity to help learn more on how to talk to youth about the insurrection at the Capitol and activities to encourage children to think and talk openly about race and racial identity. Participants shared their appreciation for the opportunity to learn and express their feelings in a safe space.