This is AmeriKKKa: COVID-19, Racism, & Youth Development – Really, it’s 2020!

Photo Credit: Cristen M. Mills heartofcool.com

This blog is dedicated to Youth, Youth Workers, Social Workers, Educators, and Youth Development folks on the frontline, physically and virtually. 

It’s been 75+ days of quarantine! Who knew that I would miss outside as much as I do now. TUH! I haven’t physically seen my youth, family, or friends since March, like most other New Yorkers. I have had a very limited number of social distance meet-ups, mostly from friends who did a store run or cooked food that they wanted to share. My fear has and continues to deeply influence my every moment. 

Fear

My fear turned into anxiety and stress in early May, which presented itself as hives that spread all over my body for over 3 weeks. Within 2 days of “working” with the hives, the itching and burning pain was so bad that I could barely speak. The hives had spread so quickly. Through all of this, I thought ‘Oh I still have that meeting & still need to work.’ There were moments at night where I was afraid that my hives would increase to anaphylaxis, due to my swelling face. But with the loving support of a friend and my insanely supportive boss, I took a whopping 9 days off from work. Because you can not help others without taking care of yourself first. Since then my anxiety and stress has mutated into anger as I continue to watch that Black and Brown people were dying. Dying from COVID-19 disproportionality. Dying from a lack of food. Dying from police brutality. Dying while just trying to live.

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. Ahmaud Arbery. 

How do we support Black and Brown young people, when AmeriKKKa doesn’t want Black and Brown people to just live? 

Struggling

As a Program Manager of a high school youth program, whose physical community center helped to create and foster a space for youth to show up bravely, these past 75+ days have been a struggle. A struggle to not be able to have these deep, thought provoking conversations in person. A struggle to not be interrupted by youth at my desk to check-in. A struggle to not hear youth laughing while doing homework. A struggle to not give out snacks and get updates about what’s current in popular Black Youth culture. A struggle to not hug, high five, or shake hands with youth. A struggle to not be surrounded by Black Youth Joy. The feeling of struggling has been an ongoing mood. 

Thrive

As a Youth Worker, not having youth present in my daily life has been so difficult. However, it has made me so grateful for my network, friends, and support system. I am grateful for all the opportunities to participate in virtual pop-ups on youth in their groups, because virtual after-school is happening! I am grateful for all the random emails, phone calls, and text messages from youth. I am grateful for all the videos and pictures with youth that remind me of better times. I am grateful for how Black and Brown youth continue to THRIVE. Youth are thriving as they advocate for SYEP funding. Youth are thriving as they educate their peers on COVID-19. Youth are thriving as they commit to colleges. Youth are thriving as they support their community as it erupts with rage, again, because of racism and police brutality. It’s like they’re saying, ‘Imma thrive anyway!’

I say to Youth, Youth Workers, Social Workers, Educators, Black and Brown , and White Allies who are reading this: CONTINUE. Continue to be angry. Continue to speak out. Continue to advocate. Continue to protest. Continue to take care. But most of all, please continue to thrive through the pain. You are needed. You are appreciated. 

Love, light & blessings,

Natisha S. Romain

Youth Worker, Educator, & Angry Black Woman

Author Description: Natisha S. Romain is a 2018 MA in Youth Studies graduate with over 8 years of experience in the youth development field. She is currently the High School Program Manager at a local community center called Red Hook Initiative, Inc in Brooklyn, NY. 

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