Written by Charise Powell, teacher at HLA – Northrop.

I was recently at a conference and the keynote speaker was talking about various kinds of trauma-based issues; post-traumatic slave syndrome, historical loss syndrome, PTSD among urban youth, etc. I hung to every word he was saying and in the middle of this rush of information, he said something that shocked me, brought tears to my eyes, and still lingers in my mind several months later: “How can we help youth in a world that hates their souls based on the color of their skin?”

How do we do this work in a world where such a large majority of our colorful children are hated by so many people simply based on their beautiful shades of skin and where they come from?

With events that have been occurring nationally and locally, we can’t deny what they will face when they are out in the world, away from the securities that school provides.

Education is a powerful tool, but systemic racism has enormous power that weighs on even the most educated among us.

What can we do?
This is the time when it is important to remember that we need to be willing to accept non-closure. There is no handbook or curriculum that will tell us how we can handle issues of inequity, inequality, and systems that are set in place that keep our scholars from succeeding to their fullest potential.

What I do know is that we must educate ourselves so we are able to empower our scholars and lift up their voices in a world that doesn’t want to hear what they have to say.

We must get out in the communities of our children and learn about the beautiful cultures they have to offer. Check out books at libraries, attend equity-based workshops, have courageous conversations not only with each other, but with our scholars; they know so much and need a platform to speak. We must become culturally competent before we are able to be culturally responsive.

I know we all do a lot on a daily basis. We have long work hours, we live by the words “do more,” we focus on rigorous planning, and we make sure our scholars are ready and successful on any test that is thrown their way. But what are we doing to empower our students to be strong people of color in a world where academics will only get them so far? Ask yourself what you are doing on a daily basis to empower our students so that they will be prepared for the unpredictable path this world has in store for them.