Today more than ever, teenagers are stepping up to be heard. They are saying things like, “we want to change the trajectory of equality. We want to help rebuild our communities. We want to provide suggestions regarding how to restructure for better policing.”
It’s the marginalized who are often under the microscope and suffer the consequences of profiling and now it’s the marginalized who are demanding to be heard. They want to balance the conversation and bridge the gap between adults and teens. Adults often say things like, “The children are our future” or “A person is a person no matter how small.” So, it’s time to let the youth be the message for the future.
Recently, Kansas City Teen Summit asked Altheimer, AR, and Kansas City, Mo., teenagers how the COVID-19 and George Floyd crises were affecting their lives and what solutions, if any, they had to offer. Everyone started the George Floyd conversation stating how sad it made them feel.
KaySee, a 10th grader interested in majoring in computer science, believes petitions are important to gain support and to draw attention to the problems. She recommends searching the web to find online petitions that interest you, sign it, and get involved.
Caylin, a 10th grader interested in business management, and Damari, another 10th grader wanting to be a physical therapist, both feel it’s obvious that some policemen are abusing their power, but it’s not all inclusive.
“As a teenage black girl, I am afraid to face the world at this present time,” Caylin said. “From COVID-19 to policemen brutality, I don’t know what to expect or how to feel. During this pandemic, I feel people should stay at home so it can go away. I trust God and I know that if I continue to pray and believe in him everything will get better. To me, COVID-19 is not even our (blacks) BIGGEST concern. The way police officers are allowed to just kill our black men is the BIGGEST concern. I know that not all officers are a threat, but at this point, how do you know whom to trust. The George Floyd incident made me realize that your life can be taken away at a blink of an eye. I feel as if we are reliving the past and I honestly don’t like it. I pray that the world will come together and not see color, but see an individual for who they are. Until we come together, the world will continue to be corrupt. I just want COVID-19 to go away and police brutality to be handled in a just manner.”
Damari wants to encourage people to keep spreading the word that Black Lives Matter.
“We are not animals,” he said. “We are human too. When it came to COVID-19, everyone said they were feeling closed off and abnormal. Many had to cancel their vacations and plans.”
Damari stated, after purchasing a few new summer outfits, they are now just sitting in the closet.
And, Ja’Korbyn, a 10th grader who wants to major in engineering, added his voice to the COVID-19 conversation by saying, “stay at home and keep yourself protected. If you need to leave your house for any reason, please wear a mask at all time. If you don’t have a mask you should get one. Keep your distance, and if you need to, wear a pair of gloves. Also, wash your hands with soap and WARM water for a good minute and keep some hand sanitizer near. You can also use Lysol and disinfectant wipes to clean around your home and inside your vehicles.”
“And about the George Floyd conversation, I would like to acknowledge the people who are peacefully protesting, you get to see black and white people coming together marching down the streets holding their signs wanting to be seen and heard,” Ja’Korbyn said. “More attention needs to be brought to the positive and peaceful protesting going on, because mostly what you see on social media now is the bad and the rioting. Of course, it’s not a good thing, but let it be known that there are people protesting the right way. #voiceofthepeople”.
Kennedi, a 4.0 GPA student entering the 9th grade this fall, says COVID-19 will continue with the lack of social distancing. The reopening of the economy is seemingly deadly, in her opinion. She feels the lack of compliance with CDC guidelines increases the number of cases and those numbers will continue to rise without distancing.
“This will lower our chances of returning back to our once normal state of living,” she says.
And, in regard to George Floyd she believes protests, riots, etc., have made America open its eyes to struggles of the black community.
“We face injustice on a daily basis. If it wasn’t for the protesting of George Floyd’s life and the other victims who suffered and died from police violence and racial injustice, then his death would be just another case that you hear about and months later no justifiable actions are being taken. #voiceofthepeople”
I admire these young adults for their honesty and willingness to join the conversation. The COVID-19 and George Floyd death are both scary and unresolved situations that will take hard work to reach normalcy. To add my voice to the conversation, I wanted to share a story about a community that took on a restoration project centuries ago.
The wall in their gated community was destroyed during wartimes and, as a result, they were left vulnerable to attacks from their enemies. One of their Christian leaders had an interesting idea. Each family would work to repair the section of destroyed wall nearest them. Around the perimeter of the wall, I can imagine everyone working simultaneously to repair what was damaged. It became a neighborhood project that took approximately 4 years to repair a — 2.5-mile-long wall. Each person took on limited responsibilities. No one took on more than they could handle.
I love this project and have faith it’s still a viable option for us today. Buying from neighborhood stores, volunteering to repair things, or picking up trash are simple things within our reach now. Imagine the outcomes: a) communities united in a common goal; b) new relationships formed; c) communities creating vibrancy that reduces sprawl; and d) economic growth.
But, make no mistake. We don’t have a one size fit all answer. We feel helpless, just like most of you. We need many ideas and many people implementing parallel efforts to obtain workable solutions. But, I am confident that together we will get through these crises.
-- Brenette Wilder of Lee’s Summit, Mo., (formerly of Altheimer, AR), is president of Kansas City Teen Summit. She blogs at wordstoinspire105953116.wordpress.com.