As millions of Americans celebrate Fourth of July, things may feel different this year given COVID-19 and the ongoing issues of systemic racism that plague our country. On a holiday that commemorates America’s independence and symbolizes freedom, kids and teens may feel more conflicted this year as they continue to quarantine with family, practice social distancing and witness weekly examples of racial injustices in America.
For military-connected youth and teens, COVID-19 and racial inequity issues may threaten their resiliency and exacerbate existing challenges due to the unique needs they face in their communities. Through these difficult times, Boys & Girls Club-affiliated Youth Centers and other Clubs who serve military populations continue to uplift and advocate for the military youth and families they proudly serve.
Dasia B., 2019 National Military Youth of the Year and Brandon C., 2018 Midwest Military Youth of the Year, shared some of their thoughts on how it feels to live in America today, from a military youth’s perspective. While COVID-19 has turned their lives upside down and racial injustices and disparities have left them disheartened, they remain hopeful, resilient and believe real change is imminent. They credit their Boys & Girls Clubs-affiliated Youth Centers for instilling critical life lessons and equipping them with tools that continue to help them persevere and weather challenging times, as young adults.
As a military-connected youth, how does it feel to live in America (“the land of the free”)?
“Being a young black woman in America right now has always meant you are a pioneer - you are ambitious, you are strong, and you are resilient without a doubt. My uniqueness never goes unnoticed, yet it is the color of my skin that blinds those of what’s truly unique and beautiful from within. In addition, I feel as if I have to work twice as hard compared to the other females in the room, and even harder against men.
I am proud of those that came before me because they have created an opportunity for me to succeed and further the progress of opening more doors for people of color. I have always seen the racial injustices within our country, but current events have allowed my peers to see them as well.”
“As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, the phrase, “the land of the free,” has taken on a new meaning for me in the past five years. However, just like members of the African American community and other minorities here in America, despite all of these new freedoms, LGBTQ+ individuals continue to face discrimination and prejudice across the nation.
I am so proud to be an American, and I am thankful for the freedoms and opportunities I am given as a citizen. However, I am angry and disgusted at the horrific treatment of members of the African American community and people of color by police and the retaliation against the Black Lives Matter movement. America is becoming increasingly divided, and I want to see our nation unified now more than ever as we navigate the challenges this pandemic has brought to our world and the racial injustices and violence seen against African Americans and people of color. Despite all of the negativity we have unfortunately seen this year, I am excited and so grateful to see so many Americans coming together in this time of crisis to support one another and the Black Lives Matter movement. America is the land of the free, and I want my grandchildren to see and live in an America where everyone is equal and wants to see each other succeed.”
How has being a military kid helped you develop the resilience needed to get through 2020?
“Being a military youth has allowed for exposure to diverse communities and various perspectives. By being a resilient and empathetic military youth, I can help others get through any obstacles like COVID-19 and persuade/encourage others to see the importance and the purpose behind Black Lives Matter.”
“While many people have struggled to adjust to life during this pandemic, I believe my experiences as a military-connected youth and the resilience I have developed through those experiences have helped prepare me for the abrupt changes COVID-19 has brought to my daily life. While many of my friends have been overwhelmed and underprepared by the changes this pandemic has brought, I have found myself adjusting quickly to these new norms and not being upset or angry by the situation I find myself in, but grateful.
As a military-connected youth I have learned the importance of community and supporting other people regardless of the color of their skin, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, or any diversity. In the military community we lean on each other and fight for one another, and I stand with my friends and loved ones of the African American community during this time of need to remind our nation and our world that black lives do matter. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s commitment to equity and inclusion for all young people.