Taking on the role of a community leader and raising Black youth comes with great responsibility. Being an educator and working with young people means you are at the forefront of special work. Children are human beings with so much to learn and the innocence of youth is what makes them magical. There is something profound about the ability of children to be wild enough to truly believe in their dreams. The ability of children to be so close to their imagination is what keeps me, as a teacher, going. This time, for what feels like the first time, children everywhere have been astronomically impacted by “the real world”. For some, school and programs are their refuge and an opportunity to explore life outside of home. Due to the pandemic, our students have had much to unpack within the four walls of their bedrooms.
When Raising Black Youth: We Must Remember, They Have Feelings Too.
I consider anyone around students on a regular basis to be a youth leader. This could be a teacher/caregiver/mentor or anyone who has a steady influence on the younger generation. A youth leaders’ responsibility is to allow them to feel heard. Oftentimes, students feel as if no one is listening to them. This is why depression has skyrocketed amongst young people. They have no way to release all of their deepest thoughts. Youth require constant affirmation, that they can trust themselves and make decisions to change their future. Children (in stable living conditions) often get the majority of their needs met, but can emotionally suffer because not enough time is spent truly investing in them. Being young is terrifying, because you don’t know yourself yet. Too much of childhood is spent trying to fit in and belong with everyone else. Our future adults need to feel relentless and unapologetic about their views and plans. Instilling an early confidence in them is the globalized investment of a lifetime.
While parents are working and trying to keep their family afloat, their kids are growing at lightning speed. This is when educators and youth leaders come into play. As a teacher, I’ve been able to have really deep discussions with my students about their perspectives on life. Most of the time, they are delighted to just have someone listen. This would be my advice about how to encourage and lift them up. Just listen. If you get the opportunity to be around a small child, or a teenager, just listen to whatever it is they have to say. Having someone ascribe value to their time will be a confidence boost in itself.
When Raising Black Youth: We Must Remember, Youth Need Us To Believe.
Something I find beautiful and profound about the next generation is that their talents are so obvious. I believe everyone is naturally good at something. With children, it seems so easy to spot their interests and what they are passionate about, because they are so colorful in nature. Once they feel comfortable around you, they will open up to a whole new world of expressing their passions. Since there is no pressure from the world or society, everything flows through them in an organic way. Capitalize on their talent by encouraging their gifts and offering suggestions to enhance their growth. If you notice that a teenager is interested in writing or music, ask questions about that. Black youth need to understand that they are talented and loved. So many young masters have missed their moment because it wasn’t nurtured enough by elders, caregivers, or youth leaders. How children are treated at a young age will impact their future forever.
I am proud of my responsibility to give back to my community through mentoring and nurturing youth. These are the next leaders of the world. These are young humans just trying to figure things out. Along with giving back to your community, you also feel joy when making these connections. Being able to extend love and lessons to someone so innocent and eager to learn can be good for your own personal wellness. You never know how you can change a child’s life, just by believing in them. I encourage you to be mindful of these sentiments as we usher in the next generation of global change makers.