Our youth deserve dignity and respect as they ARE our leaders. The premier issue of the Word on The Street/ La Voz de Los Jovenes teen magazine just came out. I’ve met some of these youth and they are AMAZING. These are the voices of leadership we need to be listening to NOW. Read. Learn. Share what touches your mind or heart.
This is Asheville.
Our youth deserve dignity and respect and one way we can show that to them is by being real with the conditions they are facing right now, recognizing that some youth do not have access to some opportunities as fairly as others do. We must face how opportunities do or don’t prepare youth to navigate the world. We can shift that narrative that is playing out and create a new reality… This is Asheville.
Footage for the film, Beneath the Veneer, a documentary currently in production about opportunity, success and inequity in America?
Young people want, deserve, and need spaces where it is safe to voice their opinions and where they can talk about the issues that are relevant to their daily lives. This event on MLK day was powerful because it was designed by young people, for young people. The adults collaborating were in service to helping the students create an agenda that allowed them to have the conversations that they thought were most important. CAYLA (City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy) high school students generated a list of over 20 topics and then narrowed it down to the 7 table discussions that they hosted (safe sex, housing shortage, police brutality, discrimination in school, leadership, dealing with stress, and gender equality/HB2). In the closing circle the power of the event was felt as participants shared that they were feeling educated, empowered, inspired, motivated, hopeful, connected, that their voices mattered, and grateful for the opportunity to talk about things that don’t get talked about in regular conversation. Asheville’s young people have so much wisdom, insight, and clarity about what our community needs. It was an honor to get to learn from them. Let’s keep listening to them and giving them opportunities to lead themselves and us.
May we all find this place of hope and motivation and the courage to keep showing up… and may all young people find peers and adults to walk with you, encourage you and remind you of what a badass human being you are and how incredibly important your wisdom, skills and insight are to the future. I am so grateful for the many moments of authentic inspiration from this First Lady…
My heart and body is shaky. This familiar place of tension. Work needs to get done. And yet the bigger questions call to be stronger. My heart is fluttering. Curiosity pounding my brain to “want to figure it out.” What seems clear to me is that there are many White people in this country who do not have any (??) close friends or family who they have meaningful conversations with about what it feels like to be a person of color in this country right now. That folks are not hearing the personal stories of how Muslim, Lantinx, Black, LGBTQ children are being effected right now… the fear they are feeling. The stress of the children because they feel they have a president that hates them and their people and now their classmates feel empowered to hate and discriminate against them as well. Fear that their families aren’t safe. The stress of parents trying to hide their own emotions as they assure their children that they will be safe.
I imagine that folks who think this time is just about politics don’t have relationships where they hear first hand stories about being victims of hate speech or hate violence. I believe in the good of human nature and I believe that if folks genuinely understood how real the threat that many Americans are feeling right now was… if people really got that, then they would be willing to stand up against the rhetoric that is promoting this hate.
I believe in the goodness of people and my body aches for us as a collective to transform like I used to watch the Incredible Hulk as a child… may the pressure of injustice, hate and violence be so strong that our actual cells and chemistry transform. May we be emboldened with such courage and bravery that the fierceness of our love and devotion to that which is sacred and life-giving has a collective power like we have never seen before. May we have access to the fullness of our spiritual powers, our emotional strength, our physical strength, our intellectual wisdom, and the power of our connected relationships. May we be as graceful as possible amongst the chaos and complexity. May the suffering, trauma and pain that we feel find moments of respite in our breath so that it does not interfere with our actions, so that we may act in ways that are driven by love and dedication to freedom, justice and the sacredness of life. May we experience healing and forgiveness. May we be clear about the journey we are on, even with the path is uncertain. May we be humble to the fact that clarity does not equal knowing… that it is not through our knowing that we will find the way, but through our reverent listening, centeredness and attunement to the moment and what is calling for our attention. May we have the humility to recognize when to step back, when to follow the leadership of others, when to act differently than we have in the past. May we be awake to when we are being called to step forward and to do so with humble grace and fierce courage. May we be committed in our relationships, using the power of our connections to walk with others, support one another, and grant us all access to the collective wisdom that is so much grater than our individual thinking and doing. May our hearts be filled with love, love, love. May we remember to smile and laugh… often. Inviting each other into moments of joy… even as we stay close to the real suffering that is present. May we be spiritual warriors, learning from indigenous relatives about what this actually looks like, how we move with the sacred, being humble as we step in ways that we’ve never stepped before, re-membering the wisdom that we all have access to.
May it be so… Ashe.
Thank you for reading, listening, praying with me.
This is not okay. I have watched youth speak out in Asheville and here it is in Charlotte. Young Black children pleading to folks with government power for their parents to not be killed, for their Black bodies to not be violated and hunted. This has to stop. Black lives matter. And if you are the parent of white children, please listen to Tamiko’s words below and recognize that you also have responsibilities as parents to educate your children about their privileges… let them see how unfair these systems are, so that perhaps your children will not only grow up loving and being connected to diverse people, but will also feel the fire in their hearts to end the institutional and systemic racism that has kept these policies and practices in place all throughout our lives so far and those of generations before us. Up until now, we have failed to make this country safe for the little girl in this video, for all the Black and Brown children (and their families) in this country. It is our responsibility to be part of the solution. Let me know if you need help understanding what to educate yourself or your children about.
From Tamiko Ambrose “Since Black parents and brown parents and Latinx parents and indigenous parents and parents of color all need to teach their children that the world is unsafe, white parents of white children need to teach them about racism. And not racism as in being nice to your friends, but the racism that privileges them and that creates A space for them to be safe and thrive while stripping opportunity, stealing and robbing, and hurting and killing communities of color. This burden must be shared. If you don’t know about it, you can learn. Tell the truth to the children. Please!”
Working with real people in real communities making real efforts to take action that will support the maximum benefit for everyone is what inspires me, lights me up, brings me to life. How do we really take action that brings about well-being and positive movement for 100% of humanity?
What I know is that there is no single answer. There is no direct path there. And there is no shortage of amazing, intelligent, compassionate humans on this planet to invest themselves in truly making a difference. How do we continue to find one another, find the small things we can do that contribute to the larger story? Find the unique piece that we each have to offer and give our whole hearts towards making that contribution to the world? And how do we enjoy life, honor love and connectivity, and celebrate beauty as much as possible while on the journey?
One initiative that I’m working on now that is deeply inspiring me is the Ideas That Move Youth Challenge. Public schools and private schools collaborating together to create a platform where young voices can be heard and their efforts to be leaders are supported.
Check out some of the ideas they have to make Asheville healthier and more sustainable:
- Aquaponics as Food Insecurity Solution
Problem: One out of every six people in Western North Carolina suffers food insecurity, not having an adequate healthy food resource.Solution: An urban solution we propose is to create aquaponic farms in Asheville or other urban areas in Buncombe County, particularly areas with low socio-economic demographics. This will produce fish (i.e Tilapia) as well as vegetables (i.e. lettuce, other greens, tomatoes, peppers, etc.). It can even be completely off the grid and therefore provide a stable food source during conditions of extreme weather.
- Swim For Life
Problem: Every year hundreds of stories about people drowning are reported in our area. We see this as a preventable tragedy. Youth need to acquire the ability to swim as a survival skill. Due to income and opportunity limitations many young people would benefit from free swimming lessons.Solution: We would like to create a community service project that would work with local public schools to provide free swimming lessons to students who may not have the opportunity to take them otherwise. This would benefit students in many ways, such as increasing their self-confidence, keeping them safe and providing an exercise outlet for the future.
- Youth Diversity in the Classroom and School Community
Problem: Many students who attend SILSA do not realize the issues that arise regarding an equal learning environment for all, due to the segregation of social groups and diversity problems on campus. All students need to feel as if they have the same opportunity as others in order to be successful in high school and beyond.Solution: Our idea is to start a Diversity group on the AHS/SILSA campus. We will meet twice a week to discuss current adolescent issues with people from different backgrounds. It will also be a great opportunity to build new friendships with people of various cultures and build more community on our campus. We will also discuss possible ways to address issues that face teens on our campus.
- Switching Asheville City Schools buses from diesel to biodiesel
Problem: Asheville City School buses run on diesel fuel which is a nonrenewable resource and creates air pollution. If we continue using diesel fuel in our buses, our air quality will continue to worsen and we will continue using harmful nonrenewable resources. Western North Carolina is known for clean, healthy air. Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen, which is dangerous for students to be breathing.Solution: Asheville City School buses run on diesel fuel which emits harmful pollutants into our clean air. Diesel exhaust harms our environment and everyone exposed to it, including the 25 million children that are transported by diesel fueled school buses. Particulate matter in diesel exhaust has links to causing asthma, bronchitis, and even lung cancer. Biodiesel is a clean, renewable alternative that reduces diesel air pollution. Biodiesel contains virtually no sulfur. This reduces the amount of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter released.