April 14, 2022
Yesterday, April 13 at 3pm, the footage of the murder of Patrick Lyoya who was shot and killed by a Grand Rapids Police officer was released. It is tragic and brutal. Patrick was a refugee, Black, and did not speak English as a first language. At Affinity Mentoring we clearly recognize that these attributes hit on multiple checkboxes for many of our staff, families, students, and schools that make today a terrifying reality check, and can foster extremely valid fear, anger, and anxiety.
We support the essential voices and partners in our community such as NAACP Grand Rapids, ACLU of Michigan, and others who are calling for clarity, justice, transparency, and change. Real, true, systemic change in our community. They are leaders that we look up to, listen to, and follow as experts and leaders in situations such as this, and we support their voice and efforts.
Our first and foremost response is to our immediate and most important constituents: our students and families. Students throughout our entire city today are watching this unfold. Hiding this information, lying about it, covering it up, or invalidating their response to it is disrespectful and harmful in both the short and long term. We ask that everyone who is around students today please respect that their fear is real and valid, and that the best thing a safe, healthy adult can do is provide validation, support, and a listening ear. As adults, we can be strong enough to sit in our discomfort to provide a healthy and safe space for students to talk about their fears. We will continue to provide resources and tools to support students and families.
Our mission and vision focus on creating brave spaces in a diverse and inclusive community, amplifying the voices of youth, and fostering spaces of belonging. We hold true to these statements on both easy and hard days, through enjoyable and despairing conversations, with crafts and crying, because it all matters. We have individuals who encourage us to “stay the course”, focusing on students and mentoring, which we are wholly committed to. We are doing exactly that when we dedicate time, resources, and attention to this situation. For students to focus in school, engage in healthy ways, and work towards successful futures we have to give them room to be whole, healthy, safe, and cared for human beings, in every part of their identity. Today is a day when many students feel that pieces of their identities are threatened. We stand against this. We continue to say that Black Lives Matter, and that healthy identity development is essential to human development, and therefore mentoring.
If you are looking for action steps today, here are some resources we recommend:
- Directly support the Lyoya family financially as they attempt to move through this tragedy by contributing here.
- Write to our local officials to demand that transparency and justice are found during this investigation.
- Attend, watch, and participate in your local Grand Rapids City Commission meetings to hold city officials accountable.
- Follow leaders in our community who work tirelessly to bring justice and change to issues such as these, listening to them and engaging in their work:
- Prioritize your mental health and well-being, and that of your loved ones.
- If you are an employer, prioritize your staff and their families by providing them resources such as EAP programs, paid time to seek out therapeutic services, and extra, flexible time off to process and care for themselves.
- Know that it is completely ok not to watch the brutal video footage, and certainly restrict yourself and loved ones from watching it repetitively. You can still engage and act even if you have not seen the camera footage of the shooting, and repeated watching only increases trauma responses.
- Make sure BIPOC adults and students in our community can get access to therapeutic support for, and BY clinicians of color, such as through the Mental Health Clinicians of Color group in Grand Rapids.
- Encourage and help students seek out support and resources that their school is offering, both this week and in the long term.
- Use some of these resources to talk to students around you about racism, police violence, and belonging in our community:
- Helping Children Cope After A Traumatic Event
- Validate all students’ feelings.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Allow students to express themselves in their preferred mediums, whether through talking, drawing, acting, toys, etc.
- Talk to ALL students around you, including if they are white and speak English as a first language. Be an excellent example of how to express and process complicated emotions, engage empathically with other people’s feelings, and take action in support of others.
- Check out our Antiracism, Identity Development, and Mentoring page to learn more about how you can positively support student growth and identities. Many students may be feeling today like pieces of their identities are dangerous, bad, invalid, or a liability; let’s fight against that by supporting their whole selves!
- Helping Children Cope After A Traumatic Event
Cassandra Kiger, Executive Director