Scholars: You are loved, supported, valued and cherished.
By Andrew B. Jones
Member, Board of Directors
The Catalyst Schools
I know many of you have been shaken by the recent and tragic murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. I know that you are discouraged by the fact that those are just the most recent three names on a long list of lives that have been wrongfully ended. I know that you are frustrated by the reaction, or lack thereof, from many in popular culture, the media and political leadership. I know that all this is happening in the backdrop of a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting the communities closest to you.
I know this personally because I am a black man. I have been unlawfully stopped, questioned, searched and even arrested more times than I care to recall. I have been the victim of both overt and subliminal racism. I have felt the fear, anger, defenselessness and survivor’s guilt. I have grieved and cried for complete strangers, just as I have for my own friends and relatives, that have been taken too soon. I have also been blessed, mentored, educated, and frankly lucky enough to advance myself and my family beyond the socioeconomic status I grew up in.
If you’re like me, one of the most unnerving parts of the last few weeks has been a feeling of helplessness. Many of us don’t know how we can express our outrage and grief, or what we can do to make our communities safer and our country better. The unfortunate fact is there’s no right way to express or process outrage and grief. As you continue to grow, you will have to find your own healthy, safe and legal way of processing this type of pain. I am still learning myself and do not pretend to be an expert in this area. However, I do know what you can begin doing to make our communities safer and our country better.
Each of you have an incredible opportunity right now. As a young person with so much potential, you have the opportunity to dream up the world you want to live in, find your station in it, and work towards that. If I could humbly suggest where you could constructively channel the energy generated in the last few weeks (and beyond), I would ask that you channel it towards figuring out how you are going to use your talents to make a difference, and commit to doing the work required to get there.
There is no easy or quick solution to police brutality and the underlying institutional racism that drives it. There is no easy or quick solution to disproportionately poor health outcomes in communities of color. These problems, and others, have existed throughout American history, regardless of who the President is. The only way we can progress is through incremental and comprehensive change; through the collective work of everyone in society. You have the opportunity to figure out what your contribution will be. The future will need leadership from your generation in every field, including education, ministry, government, business, healthcare, philanthropy, and many others. That progressive leadership is the solution. What you do with your future is the solution, and you can be working toward that future right now; today.
You are loved, supported, valued and cherished. Not just by your families, but by many people you will never know or see. By people of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds. By people who contribute their talents, time, money, careers and lives toward helping you maximize the opportunity I described above. I know that because they serve alongside me on the Board, and I see them in action every day as your principals, teachers, coaches, staff, mentors and role models. While we can’t always protect you from the harsh realities of our society, we see you and we are working to ensure you have a brighter future. It is your opportunity, in fact, your responsibility to yourselves and to us, to use that future to make our communities, country and world a better place.
Thank you and please stay safe, healthy, focused and committed.
Andrew B. Jones