Last week, tragedy fell at our doorstep. Philando Castile was fatally shot during a traffic stop — another in a series of high profile officer-involved shootings of black men, a story made all the more viral when Castile’s girlfriend livestreamed the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Facebook. It all went down on our street, nearly right in front of our office.
In a message to staff, our CEO, Amy Meuers, drew the connection between recent events and NYLC, beyond just our proximity to last week’s shooting. She has agreed to let us share her words with you.
“Sitting in the NYLC office, just steps away from a growing memorial for Philando Castile, I am struck by the devastation that is happening across our country. Human lives are being shattered, not just those of the loved ones of Castile, Alton Sterling, and the Dallas police officers, but the lives of each of us. Every time an act of violence takes place in our communities, we are all affected. Emotions run deep — sadness, fear, anger, even hatred; the question that keeps running through my mind is, how do we move beyond these polarizing emotions to a place where we can take positive action?
“As a mother of two amazing children, these tragic events reinforce the privilege that I, and they, have in this world. I have never once thought about teaching my son how to respond when he is approached by a police officer. I have never had to tell my children that they will be judged by the color of their skin. I can say that recognizing this privilege has taken effort and time and the realization that I can never fully comprehend the experiences of people of color. What I can comprehend and what NYLC can teach is how to have honest, thoughtful conversations that lead to positive actions.”
This week, NYLC is hosting its annual National Youth Leadership Training. Young people from across the country have come to the Twin Cities to learn about making equitable change in their communities. As a staff, we are choosing to address these events as an opportunity for courageous conversations about race, equity, and justice. This is nothing new for us — NYLT is our longest-running program — but the content could not be more timely. At NYLT, we choose to embrace, not erase, the different perspectives and experiences we each bring with us.
Amy continued, “My hope is that by providing our youngest leaders with the tools and resources they need to take positive action, all parents will have the same privilege that I do — to send their children into the world where their skin color doesn’t define who they are, rather the moral of their character does.”