A Message of Gratitude and Support during COVID-19
This message was originally delivered as part of an in-person keynote titled “Healing Together: Creating a Community of Solidarity with Young People“ at the Portland Public Schools Leadership Institute on Wednesday August, 11, 2021.
With the exception of parents, it’s educators who have witnessed first-hand the ravages of this COVID-19 pandemic and it’s spotlight of racial and economic injustice on our young people. You’ve had front row seats to a show no one wanted to watch, because you love young people.
You’ve lost young people. You’ve watched young people lose their family members. You’ve watched them struggle with isolation, eating disorders and disordered eating, cutting and other self-harming or self-destructive behaviors, and food and housing insecurity and injustice.
You’ve seen it all up close. And except for you: many, many more young people probably wouldn’t have made it this far.
Even when you’ve made mistakes. Even on your worst day in the classroom. Even when you’ve made decisions or taken actions you now regret and wish you could take back: you are still good.
You can be pleased with yourselves. In fact, we need to be pleased with ourselves. That might be the only correct perspective. I understand the pull to notice the ones we couldn’t reach or the ways we or the systems fell short. It did. We did. And still we can be pleased.
Coming from a place of deficit and disappointment will only leave us more discouraged and deflated or coming at our work from a place of urgency or seeking redemption. Neither is workable.
What I have witnessed in my 27 years as a racial justice student and educator is that when we’re given the opportunity to heal in community, we organize. We come together in solidarity. We no longer see our struggles as personal or individual “weakness” or “failings.” We no longer agree to have our internalized oppression pathologized or criminalized. We can see that there is a bigger system at play.
We can come together in solidarity to transform the system from a place of healing rather than blame each other or turn the effects of the oppression against ourselves.
If we can remember that each of us is good, that is the baseline we can do this work together from.