By C. Diane Wallace Booker, Esq., Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President for U.S. Dream Academy

Our U.S. Dream Academy team is deeply saddened and disturbed by the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubrey and so many other Black Americans who have lost their lives in unjust and violent ways with little to no justice being served.

As a youth-serving organization, our staff and volunteers have often had to ask the questions “What do we tell our children?” and “How does this violence and disregard for Black lives impact our DreamKids?” When I saw the face of George Floyd’s six-year-old daughter at his funeral, my heart broke. I thought about the types of conversation her mother will have with her, as she is growing up, about the loss of her father.
 

Things Youth Experience & Witness: Racial Injustice, Trauma & Violence

From the 2015 Baltimore City uprising connected to Freddie Gray’s death where the protesting and fires took place minutes from our Dream Learning Center to one of our former students being shot and killed in Washington, DC shortly after the pandemic started, incidents of trauma and violence have sparked difficult conversations with our young people who should never have to experience such challenges.
 

 
Our U.S. Dream Academy students are made up of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds with the majority being African American – 68% of our students identify as Black; 18% identify their ethnicity as Latino/Hispanic and race as White; 4% Asians, 1% Native American and about 9% that chose not to identify their race.  However, 100% of our young people live in economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods with high rates of violence. Issues surrounding race and injustice often arise, and this is why we train our volunteer mentors to be sensitive to cultural bias and the impact of race and poverty in society.
 

 

Preparing Mentors for Racial Injustice Discussion with Youth

U.S. Dream Academy seeks to  develop and provide more substantive training for our staff and mentors on racial injustice and how to have meaningful discussions around race and our different experiences in America. 

With this newly developed training, we will  teach our Dream Mentors a variety of youth-centered strategies to engage young people in dialogue related to the sensitive and complex issues of racial injustice. We seek to create safe spaces for these conversations to occur where mentors and mentees will learn from each other and honor each other’s life experiences through deep listening, non-judgement, and compassion.
 

Meaningful Response from Our Board

Our U.S. Dream Academy board of directors and staff are committed to more deeply understanding and incorporating the impact of racial injustice into our work;  particularly at the intersections of mass incarceration, poverty, health, and education. 

Recently our board of directors signed a statement in a stand against racial injustice, “Racial Trauma & Young People: Why We Can’t Stay Silent”, along with America’s Promise Alliance Partners that represent millions of youth across the country. Please read our collective statement HERE.

Our founder, Wintley Phipps, penned his thoughts on racism in a recent article published in The Adventist Review – please take a moment to read his compelling and thought-provoking insights in “This Intractable Lie” 
 

Steps You Can Take NOW To Eliminate Racial Injustice

Over the past two weeks, some of you may have participated in various marches, while others have chosen different forms of protest and engagement. No matter your form of activism, there is one thing we can all do to help eliminate racial injustice – to have important conversations in our own homes and within our network of family and friends about race, privilege, and equality.
 

 
Many of you reading this article have children, and we know many adults are wondering how to approach such topics in their own homes. White families may have a different discussion than families of color; however, all of us can strive to accomplish the same goal: equal and fair treatment, and understanding that no one group of people is superior to another. 
 

14 Books on Race & Anti-Racism for Young Readers & Youth

One of the best ways to initiate discussion on these topics is through books. Storytelling is an excellent way to help young people understand complex issues. Additionally, when you read with your children, you create new and memorable bonds.

It’s never too early to create a safe space for your child to explore issues around differences, racism, fairness, and equality as this is not a one-time conversation. These are conversations that youth need to have throughout their lifetime of learning and growing. It is also never too late for adults to brave the earnest conversations that substantive societal change commands. Below are 14 books on race and anti-racism that can help you talk to children in your family and community.
 

 
Recommended books for younger readers:

  1. Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
  2. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
  3. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  4. Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters
  5. Something Happened In Our Town
  6. The Day You Begin
  7. Moses: When Harriet Tubman  Led Her People to Freedom
  8. Happy In Our Skin
  9. Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer
  10. Sulwe

A few suggestions for middle and high school students:

  1. I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones – that also has a free download discussion guide for teachers or others who seek to facilitate a discussion after reading the book
  2. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
  3. Dear Martin by Nic Stone 
  4. This Side of Home by Renee Watson

For additional ideas and a wide variety of diverse books for your family, please also visit Brown Sugar & Spice, an online Black-owned bookstore, to support their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.
 

Talking About Race


 
A new, national online resource portal named “Talking About Race” has recently been made available by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, According to the museum’s website, the purpose of the portal is to “help individuals, families, and communities talk about racism, racial identity and the way these forces shape every aspect of society, from the economy and politics to the broader American culture.”

Click HERE to explore this portal with your family and community. 
 

Take A Stand Against Racism


 
We encourage you to affirm your personal commitment to help eradicate racism, advocate for racial justice, and help create a more just society in the United States of America for young people to grow up free from discrimination, violence, and trauma.

TOGETHER, WE MAKE THE DIFFERENCE.


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C. Diane Wallace Booker, Esq., is the Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President for the U.S. Dream Academy, a justice reform champion, attorney and seasoned non-profit executive. She led the national expansion and has refined a youth development model of skill building, character building and dream building that has successfully helped thousands of young people living in high risk neighborhoods to build positive dreams. VIEW FULL BIO

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