Last Friday, Forward Through Ferguson issued a public statement following the Stockley verdict and continuing protests, and Youth In Need signed on in support. The statement calls on policy and decision makers to advance needed reforms on behalf of citizens of color who continue to be endangered by systemic racism, and included the endorsement of 30 community partner organizations.
Why is this important to Youth In Need?
I've written recently about our need to be accountable to the children, youth and families in our community, to serve them the best we possibly can, and to look at societal issues that affect our clients and try to improve policies and systems where we can. That's why YIN is involved with the Forward Through Ferguson (FTF) organization, which is working along with many government agencies, nonprofits, businesses and policymakers to implement the "Calls to Action" from their report, Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity. The report culminated out of the work of the Ferguson Commission, a diverse group of citizens representing a variety of backgrounds, communities, thoughts and experiences. Over the course of their work between November 2014 and September 2015, the commission listened to almost 2,000 people, including citizens from all walks of life as well as researchers and scholars, clergy and legislators, business, nonprofit and civic leaders. In fact, they conducted a focus group with young people from Youth In Need, because they wanted their voices to be included. The commissioners heard about the challenges of daily life and the frustrations and struggles many people face every day, including many of our clients and staff. Four "Signature Priorities" were identified: Justice for All, Youth at the Center, Opportunity to Thrive, and Racial Equity.
These priorities are deeply connected to Youth In Need's work, our clients, and the communities in which we serve. There are calls to action around issues such as childhood hunger, early care and education, transportation, poverty, employment, and trauma-informed care, just to name a few. The Justice for All area includes calls for fostering positive interactions between police and youth, training law enforcement officers about the unconscious biases that we all have, and reforming how municipal courts respond to nonviolent offenses.
Hope is a basic element of Youth In Need's strength-based philosophy, so in closing, I'd like to share an excerpt from the introduction to the report that resonated with me especially:"To be faithful to this moment, we must respond and work together with young people to bring about change for their generation and the next. Leaders are dealers in hope. The commission's challenge to the leaders of this region—no matter how, where, or who you lead—is to engage in the hard work of creating real hope."
The full statement can be read here.