While at a conference, that was primarily attended by while colleagues, I was often in spaces where I was the only black person. on one occasion the conversation drifted to childhood and upbringing and even how the majority of my white colleagues raised their children. It amazes me how much they had access to. how much more of the world they were exposed to and how race wasn’t a constant conversation in their home. It makes me jealous and joyful at the same time. but that access/equity will never sit well with me
I have sat on a few county wide conversations, some of them are focused on equity specifically and the idea of community led processes, but by no means is truly that. What has been really frustrating is to hear people prescribe solutions to the community. For example, the Barbershop talks are becoming a best practice, and organizations/system leaders want to force their messaging onto communities through this venue, rather than working with them to co-design what the barbershop would want. Additionally, yoga is promoted as such a huge mental health benefit to our community, everyone is talking about the benefits of it, but does our community feel comfortable in the current yoga spaces? Are they prescribing this solution without asking if the community wants it.
I came from very humble beginnings growing up in the hard of Boynton Beach. I experienced all the risk factors many young black men in similar communities face each day (Single parent household, juvenile delinquency, teen parent). The odds were stacked against me and I was able to maneuver through the systems and barriers and graduate high school and college. In spite of my success, graduating college and becoming a success story for the Department of Juvenile Justice, I was unable to gain employment with the agency because of my juvenile record. There were inequities in their systems which prevented individuals like myself from being a part of the agency. They have made changes and modifications to their process to allow individuals with backgrounds the opportunity to work for the agency considering they are of good moral character.
Last spring, prior to the pandemic, I volunteered as a teaching assistant at a prison that offered some inmates the opportunity to receive an associate degree. In order to be eligible, there were requirements such as not having had an incident in the past 6 months. Despite the majority of prisoners being Black, my class only had 3 Black students of 13 students total. This represents inequity because in a prison where less than 25% of prisoners are white, white prisoners represented over 75% of this class, a class which was designed to create more opportunities for them upon release.