“Where are all of the Black Lives Matters signs? Does anyone even care?” These were questions asked recently by a young black teen as we walked along the streets of Bath. Growing up in the Midcoast community, this young person is no stranger to the racism that continues to permeate America, even in such a picturesque little city.
We talked about the heartbreaking injustice of George Floyd’s death along with the many others. We attended protests and spoke their names. We asked each other, “Why does this keep happening?!” Yet, it was after those conversations that I realized the question needs to be, “What can MCA do to help remove racist structures and cultures from within our community?”
As a teen center, in our efforts to provide a safe place for all teens to be, we have witnessed the racism our black youth experience firsthand; the racial slurs and derogatory remarks that are so quick to be spoken and that cut so deeply.
We began to ask ourselves if our organization has done enough to address racism properly. The honest answer is, “No!” It has become clear that now is the time for us to learn — and to teach — more about racial inequities and how it affects our youth.
Over the past four years, our organization has been having difficult, tough, and uncomfortable conversations to break the stigma of mental health. It is beyond time to expand those difficult, tough, and uncomfortable conversations to racism.
We must be willing to recognize any conscious or unconscious bias that exists within ourselves, within our homes and in the systems and agencies within our communities and take specific actions against them.
We will be seeking out and providing anti-racism educational opportunities for youth, parents, and community members. We will ensure that the words spoken, or symbols worn within our teen center promote safety, inclusiveness, and equality.
We don’t ever want black youth in our community to look around and wonder if their community cares about them or the issues they are facing. We want them to know that they are seen and that they are heard. That we are listening. That their life matters. That black lives matter.
If you are interested in helping MCA eradicate racism and promote inclusivity in our teen and youth programs, please contact us. We especially welcome the voices of those with experience in these issues, both personal and professional.