Since the beginning of 2020, personal and public safety and wellbeing has been top of mind for everyone as we try to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities from the dangers of COVID-19. We have strived to keep our bodies and spirits healthy and strong by staying home, supporting our community, following public health guidelines, and checking in with loved ones.
Yet, the privilege that ensures safety by staying home and following guidelines is not equitable between all communities. Our current moment laid bare, once again, the injustices and inequities that historically underserved communities of color across King County have faced for generations. Like COVID-19 in America, racism is a public health crisis.
In the stillness of the paralyzing, life-altering, global Coronavirus pandemic, everyone collectively bared witness to the violent deaths of Ahmaud Arbury, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others. King County, like the rest of America, was forced to reckon with the truth of its origin story and relationship with Black people, and to grapple with the historical and ongoing injustices Black people have been experiencing for hundreds of years.
Our ongoing racial reckoning is not suddenly new, but rather very old. Structural racism is a centuries long pandemic engrained into the foundation of contemporary America by old and current inequitable policies, practices, and power structures. But for individuals and communities who are shielded – and in turn, benefit – from structural racism, and only began paying closer attention in 2020, the pain and reality experienced by black and brown communities may seem “new”.
At Best Starts for Kids, we know that children have the best chance to thrive in life when they have equitable opportunities to grow up safe and healthy into thriving young adults.
Black children and youth in King County shouldn’t have to succeed in spite of their experiences, but because of them. We need to see and provide for their whole being. Collectively, we must believe in their ability to thrive as we address and care for the inherited, generational and lived trauma that has affected all aspects of their daily lives – from personal well-being to building healthy relationships.
We must celebrate the beauty and fullness in all that Black children and youth are. Out in the world Black children and youths’ stories are living, breathing, and thriving narratives that demand more of us. They ask: do you see my humanity and are you willing to understand my full story?
Being in control of the stories told, using their words to counter the lies history has told, speaking truth, celebrating their resiliency, and highlighting their strengths, slowly helps heal trauma. Art and poetry are liberating and empowering forms of expression. Creating new spaces and opportunities to amplify young Black voices will be uplifting, liberating, and healing.
Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing beautiful and bold artwork and stories from young Black leaders across King County with the Best Starts community. Today, we are grateful to share a poem by Nikai Mackie, who originally shared her piece with our community partner, Young-Women Empowered (Y-WE), in June 2020. We hope you intentionally sit and reckon with Nikai’s words.