What I Would Have Said At the White House Tomorrow

Well, that was close.

I was almost going to the White House tomorrow, to talk about black and brown youth.

I was excited to be invited, I must admit. I have my criticisms of the administration, but more than that, I have so many communities in my network that are doing amazing work that deserves to be recognized and resourced, and I want the White House to know that. While there are people out there who are pointing their fingers at Obama and his cabinet, there are enclaves all over the country who have focused inward, innovating new ways to be an American – humane, internationally astute and responsible, locally oriented and invested.

Tahrir Square will look different here, but change is afoot.

I wanted to tell the White House about Detroit, of course – the incredible new economies bursting up through the soil here – a digital/media economy that is connecting people to their neighbors and allies in new ways – with 100s of people throughout the city eager to get in on the ground floor of bringing technology to their neighborhoods. And of course the local agricultural economy which is burgeoning with new models of what it means to live and eat in a city.

I wanted to tell the White House that it is going to take thinking about whole communities, our whole society, to truly uplift black and brown babies in this country. We have to start from the womb – healthy mothers supported by communities to bring their children into the world in ways that root a deep bond of love from the beginning of life.

Then we have to teach our babies about the true history of this country, all the histories of this country, the ones which include them and honor them and show what people have done to survive, to build a future out of oppression. Education that is experiential, ensures that people are being prepared to survive in a real world.

We have to support any and all kinds of families, recognizing the true scale of raising our babies.

We have to make sure children get to know the land early, trust nature and love it, and learn to live in harmony with it. We have to feed our babies food. Real, actual food, and make sure they know what it is, and long for it.

And then we have to let love overwhelm whatever rampant fear it is that leads us to criminalize, underserve and imprison such large black and brown populations in this country, so that the prison system stops being the end of the line for the majority of our young men.

I would have probably gotten all fired up, because I am falling so deeply in love with my people every day, and seeing so much more of their bravery and brilliance, and I want that love to be at the center of how we govern – in America, on earth.

I want to tell the White House that we are not waiting, we are building.

Because I am one of many, I put the word out through my social networks that I had this opportunity, asking what folks most wanted to see me uplift. Below are some of the responses that resonated.

My friend Will asked, “What is the role of government and what is the government’s responsibility to young people. I like the comments (below) about education, public safety, history/curricula and would throw in something on systematically supporting both employment and entrepreneurship. (Also,) in Arizona they are outlawing ethnic studies – what is the role of the government in developing curricula that acknowledges cultural truth, multiple perspectives, recognition of an American narrative as experienced by the peoples?”

Here are the rest of the words folks shared:

On Learning to Listen to Youth:
– :They are sick of being talked down to, and even sicker of being lied to. They can see through a phony better than any polygraph. They have the most extraordinary capacity for forgiveness. And that they are more keenly aware of the problems they are up against than they let on.”
– “The youth know best what to say!”

On Education:
– “Why does the education system continue to express or teach non-truths to our youths in public-school systems?”
– “In what context can non-violent communication skills be taught?”
– “Give our youth access to the best facilitators available, people who will help our young to develop skills needed for good lives and funding that doesn’t get cut off by politician’s whims. I have found that in almost every school or community, a few older people are relied on by the youth to answer their questions truthfully, who know how to be a help *and* to get out of the way *and* to be there when things get tough. Let the youth decide who their helpers are.”
– “Prep white youth to become adults in a country here they are no longer a majority.”
– “How do we get the art and sports back in to the curriculum?”
– “Critical thinking and vision and leadership and economic opportunities, love from the inside out, real history.”
– “Higher wages for teachers!”
– “Education that makes this generation of people under the age of 25 avoid political apathy and understand what is at stake.”

On Economic Realities:
– “It’s hard to separate the prospects of youth from the economic prospects of their parents and communities; programs that operate as if young people live in a vacuum are bound to fail.”
– “The rent is too damn high!” ( 🙂 ) And gas, and healthcare, and basic living expenses. What can we do as a national to undercut the corporate approach to life which has priced millions out of their basic needs.”

On Criminalization:
– “The effect of the ‘war on drugs’ on youth communities and their incarceration rates is a barrier to effective organizing.”
– “Public safety is so much more than increasing police!”

On Who Gets Included:
– “Why are native youth or natives in general are not reported in studies in all areas? I find it disturbing natives are being ‘cut’ or not considered or included when research or studies are conducted.”

I’m sure the chance will come again. There is a shift happening all over the world as people remember themselves, remember to love and uplift themselves and their neighbors, demand an end to tyranny and a beginning of true democratic processes.

I think, if the Obama administration wants to be a part of that, that we will all get more opportunities to be heard.