We now face three national crises: A virus that hits our most vulnerable members and communities hardest, an economic collapse that has left more than 40 million looking for work, and the ongoing crisis that has defined America’s history for 400 years.

 

While I don’t believe that we need another statement from a white person about the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, it may be important to some of you that I say something. I am appalled, but not surprised, by their deaths. Those of you who know me know that racial justice and reconciliation has been central to my life and career. My parents taught at Langston University, an HBCU. Many of the defining moments of my childhood were spent with their students and colleagues. I first knew black people as joyful, loving, funny, creative, complete neighbors. I try each day to do my part to attack our nation’s racist economic system and the racism that pervades our culture. I try each day to be a better ally, and I am immensely grateful to the black people in my life who call me out when I inevitably mess up.

 

More important than any statement I could make is, What actions will we take now – especially white people – to make good on our words? Rashaun has been including in our NYEC emails great resources for direct action, policy change, and education:

 

NYEC has endorsed the PEACE Act referenced in this list, and I anticipate us endorsing more legislation focused on police violence in coming days. The Reconnecting Youth Campaign , of which NYEC is a co-facilitator, will incorporate recommendations related to police accountability, police-community relationship, police demilitarization, policy defunding and community reinvestment, and juvenile-justice reform into our recommendations and meetings going forward. We will share our framing and messaging with you, to incorporate into your own work.

 

NYEC has always been about racial justice. In our 40 th Anniversary publication last year , we called for an explicit focus in all programs and policies on race and gender equity, with a priority for people of color in service receipt. In the COVID policy recommendations we developed with other national organizations focused on opportunity youth, our boldest recommendation is for a national transitional jobs program, a model proven to help young people and adults of color enter and retain employment. I hope you will join us in advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels for solutions that meet the scale of the problems we now face, that target marginalized groups long discriminated against and now acutely impacted, and that permanent change or abolish the systems that have created the status quo. There is much work for each of us to do – especially white people.

 

As COVID-19 continues its damage to our communities and economy, NYEC strives to be a place for learning, connection, and response. Rashaun has led the way in documenting what we have been learning on the NYEC blog , as well as organizing COVID response workshops tackling the transition to virtual services, coaching young people through job loss, the long tail of COVID’s impact on the labor market, and using WIOA funds to respond to COVID. I have been gratified by the huge turnout we have had on these calls and the feedback we have received. Our next COVID workshop is a case study in preparing young workers for reopening from Georgia, led by Alex Camardelle of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. It will take place June 16th, 2-3 p.m. Eastern time. Join at https://www.gotomeet.me/NYEC , or (872) 240-3212, access code 787-893-341.

 

Our All Youth Connecting convening is coming up, June 22-25, from 1-4pm Eastern time each day. Please visit the convening webpage to register and learn more. We will have sessions, perhaps a whole strand, dedicated to the ongoing uprisings and supporting young people in direct action. We will be able to bring a strong NYEC flavor to the convening through the Whova platform we will use, as well as offering space for other networks and affinity groups to meet. It’s my hope that will be a time for you to learn, recharge, and find meaning as we work through this difficult summer.

 

Thank you for your continued support of NYEC. If your organization is not an NYEC member, please consider joining. Stay safe everyone, and keep up the fight.

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