April 21, 2021
We believe that Black Lives Matter. Therefore, yesterday’s verdict provided a level of accountability that the family and friends of George Floyd deserved. However, we must continue to seek change so that no family must ever survive what they have faced, and that black and brown people in the United States can feel safe and valued. To our community members of color; we see you, we grieve with you, we celebrate with you. Your exhaustion and anger and joy are all valid and there is room for them all, and we respect whatever your response may be these events. Additionally, we hold firm in our commitment to continuously review ourselves as individuals and an organization to ensure that we perpetuate in our words and actions the value that your life holds and how much you do, in fact, matter. We understand that some may not agree with how we make these decisions; we simply ask for individuals to listen, choose empathy, and choose to imagine a world where we never have to ask whether or not a human life has worth and value.
To our partners and mentors, we ask you to consider our mentees, over 90% who identify as people of color, who will grow up to look more like George Floyd than our white community members. What must it feel like to be a student, a child, and live through these events? If we truly believe in the worth, potential, leadership skills and value of our students, what do they need to see from us today? We know that children are intelligent, perceptive, and are always listening and learning from us; what will we teach them today about their own worth and place in this community?
We understand and validate that these conversations can be hard, or even frightening; please step into them. We know that the best thing we can do to support students increasing their Social Emotional Learning is by modeling if for them, so here are some ideas to engage and openly communicate with the students around you today:
- Remember that you do not have to have an answer; use your OARS (O = Open Questions, A = Affirmations, R = Reflective Listening, S = Summarizing) to simply sit in this hard space with them and let them know you hear them.
- Let’s remind ourselves that ignoring these difficult truths is not a service to children; engaging with them gives them a sense of safety, empowerment, worth, and helps them know they are free to ask questions and feel a full range of emotions.
- We validate that it can be awkward to stay with the pain and confusion; please stay with it anyway.
- We have included two resources shared by Grand Rapids Public Schools to help learn methods to hold open conversations and healthy discourse with students; take time today to ponder how you can use these skills and practices to support the growth and healing of students around you.
- Never hesitate to reach out to Affinity staff members with questions, for support, or for additional resources. We are here for you. We do, however, want to make clear that we will not tolerate any communication or comments to or about students that puts their worth, or the worth of individuals who look like them, into question.
May we each take time today to rest, reflect, breathe, and heal before we return to our work of pushing and striving, because “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Cassandra L. Kiger, Executive Director of Affinity Mentoring