The last few days have been challenging for all of America. Like many, I was overcome with emotions as I witnessed the video footage of George Floyd’s final breaths. My thoughts and prayers immediately went out to the African American community, especially young people of color, who endure the pain and injustice of racism again and again with each senseless death. George Floyd is not an isolated case. We are painfully reminded of other lives lost unjustly like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown to name and remember a few of the thousands who have died. Each of these tragedies is a stinging reminder of the systemic racism all people of color endure today in countless small and large doses that are so common that now – it is simply expected.
Many faiths and belief systems embrace a divine element inherent in all humanity. In my faith tradition, we believe that all human beings are equally beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God. Therefore, all lives have value, meaning and purpose simply because we are present in this world and have a bit of the divine in our design. It’s this belief system that guided me to a 20-year career in positive youth development and to 4‑H where we believe that all young people, no matter their beliefs, backgrounds, or color of their skin, can create positive change in their communities today and deserve the opportunity to prepare for life and work with meaning, purpose and positive impact.
As protests sweep across our country, it is time for all of us to step up and use our voices to create an America that finally fulfills our mission to stand as “one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Most importantly, we do this for young people. The wisdom, clarity and humanity of our young people is THE hope for a brighter future for our country. It is our responsibility as adults and mentors to show up as allies and mentors who can lift their voices and empower them to address the challenges they face head-on. At National 4‑H Council, we will always believe in them, we will always tell their stories, and we will always work to create opportunities for those hardest to reach and who need us the most.
In this brief video, you can hear from diverse voices of 4‑H youth and Cooperative Extension 4‑H leaders about what equity means to them. I look forward to following their lead as they work hand-in-hand with communities to prepare young people to take on the future ahead.