Attacking systemic problems with systemic solutions driven by our youth.
“The first time I experienced racism was when I was 8 years old. I went into a convenience store. When I was checking out, a woman in front of me looked at me with disgust and told me straight to my face that I’d never have a future and never be anything because of the color of my skin.” — Jermarlon
Let that sink in for a moment. This is what Black kids and children of color face every day in America — in their neighborhoods, grocery stores, shopping malls and schools. We recently asked Boys & Girls Club teens to tell us about their personal experiences with racism. Here’s what they had to say about kids and racism and its impact on their everyday lives.
While racism and its impact on kids has been undeniable for centuries, our nation is calling for change louder than any time in recent history. The prevalence of bias, injustice and systemic racism cannot be ignored, and today’s youth will make sure of that.
Boys & Girls Clubs are where many kids and teens say they feel safe exploring difficult conversations and building relationships with diverse peers and adults. It’s where they learn about new cultures, unlearn biases and have trusted mentors to support and guide them.
As the world responded with outrage to George Floyd’s murder, teens at the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis in Oregon were grappling with their personal experiences with racism and its impact on kids. With the support of Club staff, four members — Neveah, Kayla, Josiah and Malik — quickly mobilized their peers to hold a live-streamed online event called “Addressing Racism Through Teen Voice.” They shared their honest stories and initiated courageous conversations to address systemic racism and advocate for change.
“I am biracial. Growing up I didn’t fit in with white kids because I was too black, and I didn’t fit in with black kids because I was too white. I always felt like an outcast. I was ashamed of who I was and felt lost. When I started attending the Boys & Girls Club, I slowly started to feel like I belong. Now in my senior year, I have started to embrace being black, being powerful and being intelligent.”— Neveah
When it comes to kids and racism, education expert Alfie Kohn has wisely said that “youth learn how to make good choices by making choices, not by following directions.” Boys & Girls Clubs give young people the opportunity to make choices and try new things in a safe environment. Helping kids and teens process complex challenges, amplify their voices and navigate adversity with compassion and conviction is at the heart of what happens at Clubs. As we face another uncertain school year where learning losses, safety concerns and inequities will only deepen, Boys & Girls Clubs remain a critical community hub of support to attack systemic problems with systemic solutions driven by our youth.
You can watch the full replay of Addressing Racism Through Youth Voice here:
As many Americans call for change and ask how they can help, investing in our youth is the first and most important step. Your donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America will help break the cycle of inequity and empower kids with proven programs, daily guidance and a safe place to redefine what great futures look like.