By Laura Andersen of LeadingX2
“It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.” – James Baldwin
In the wake of the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, there has been an outpouring of support for legal and advocacy organizations. This is important and necessary. And, I find that my heart aches the most when I look at faces younger, smaller, and darker-skinned than mine… What filth are we feeding them? What are we letting them witness? Do they know that they have a right to be here, a right to exist and dream and succeed? Are we sure?
It seems these days that there are few things Americans agree on. But in one area we usually overlap: opportunity. I have not heard anyone say that they want the flame of the American dream, however tiny or huge they believe it is, to be fully extinguished or even diminished. We are each critical to preventing that, especially as leaders, and especially as leaders who steward identities that are elevated by dominant culture.
There are ways of being that we Americans expect from all levels of formal authority and leadership, and there are ways of being we must expect from ourselves. It will take a village to overwhelm the invalidation that Black youth have seen and heard in the past few weeks alone … from a phone call in Central Park, to killings, to allegations of white people doing damage to discredit justified protests. We can all be a part of that village of validation. When you look at Black youth, can you imagine yourself – young you, a child seeking encouragement, affirmation, and the reminder to dream big dreams? I invite you to try. All of our children are under stress due to COVID, and we also sadly realize that economic pressure, school closures, and sickness affect our Black children in disproportionate ways. And now, these experiences and images… again.
As Oakland lingers in Shelter in Place, my husband and I have invited our friends and family to join us in donating to organizations that are committed to (and great at) uplifting and equipping Black youth in our community. We are matching donations to 100% College Prep, The Hidden Genius Project, Alive & Free, and College Track. For each vote of confidence that our loved ones cast in favor of the future of Black youth, we have matched it to the dollar. It has been a reminder to us to not only react to the current events and fight for short-term justice, but also to hold the long-term vision of the world that youth deserve. Thousands are marching and fighting for a brighter future, and he and I feel called to make sure that black youth – our community, our youth – are deeply affirmed and fully ready to step into it.
To be clear, even the great multiplier effect of awareness, activation, and contribution that has resulted from our effort is not our full vision of justice and equity brought to life; it is, however, one tangible step toward it for today.
So this week, we invite you to consider: What multiplier effect can you create in your family, your community? What awareness and activation have you chosen and modeled to spark in others? What contributions can you bring forth from yourself, to inspire those who look to you as a leader? We all have different gifts and talents – now is the time to know and add yours.
We at LeadingX2 have decided to match donations up to $2500 as well. Send us a screenshot of your donation confirmation to Alive & Free, 100% College Prep, College Track, Detroit Pal, or The Hidden Genius Project and we will match it.
Until our weekdays offer safety, encouragement, and progress to all members of our community – promoted from our hearts and minds to the highest levels of authority – our words ring hollow if we simply beg for weekends that do. Let’s lead.