From our Executive Director

Exactly one week ago, on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, we all woke up to a horrifying video of a police officer with his knee pressing into a man’s neck. The man was on the hot pavement, crying out for help, crying that he could not breathe, crying out for his mother, and that the police officer should get off his neck. Onlookers asked the police officer to stop the behavior and allow the gentleman to breathe. However, the police officer continued, even after the gentleman had stopped moving. We watched Mr. George Floyd die on the streets of Minneapolis, MN.

Like me, and for countless others, particularly Black people like me, something within us died.
From last Wednesday, the country has been in an uproar. There have been protests, some peaceful, but some have erupted into violence. Some people are asking why the violence? Why the unrest? Some are condemning the violence. Others are condemning what has led to this violence.

Once again, America is caught up in racial unrest. This is not new. Police brutality, particularly against Black people, is not a new issue. Discrimination against Black people is not a new issue. Microaggression against Black people is not a new issue. In spite of all the talk of racial inequity, cultural diversity, melting pot, give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, the land of the free and the brave, the reality is that there are groups that are still left out of the “American Dream.”
This isn’t only about police brutality and excessive use of force, but about income inequality, racism, homelessness, indifference to poverty, hostility toward immigrants- black and brown people, disproportionality in the criminal justice system, overrepresentation in social services and mental health services.

This is about, once again, in the face of a public health pandemic we hear that African Americans are being disproportionately affected. When we put all these factors together, we must stop, reflect, and understand the anger, the pain and the sense of hopelessness that most Black people are feeling right now.

So, what does this all mean to us who work at Tri-County Youth Services Bureau? What does it mean to those volunteers who serve on our Board of Directors? What does it mean to the children, youth and families whom we serve? What does it mean to those who fund us? What does it mean to those who donate to the organization? The answer is different for each group.

To quote a song from the 60’s, “The answer my friend, must come from within, the answer must come from within.” I encourage everyone to search deep within their hearts, and make a commitment to fight this virus for which it would appear that no vaccine has yet to be developed. Let us not allow ourselves to hide behind masks of fake smiles, indifference, uncaring masked by political correctness and surface relationships.

No! Now is the time to call out the injustices that exist in our communities. Now is the time to examine the subtleties of our fear of each other, fear of the unknown, fear of what is uncomfortable. Now is the time for us to be real, to be vulnerable with each other, to have those uncomfortable conversations.

As the executive director of a community-based juvenile delinquency prevention organization, I call on every caring individual to join us in our efforts to prevent crime and stamp out injustice.
We will call on our legislators and demand that they support legislation that promotes changes within the criminal justice system. That they work harder to ensure that there are equal opportunities for people of color. That they double their efforts to stamp out systemic racism and its resulting perpetuation of a class system in this country, where too many people of color are left behind.

Join us in our efforts to build up our young people, our families, and our communities. Join us in building bridges to understanding each other. How? Where do you start? We are in an election cycle. Today is primary day in Maryland. Vote!

At a personal level, take a close look at your inner circle of friends and professional colleagues. Do you see people who don’t look like you within that circle? I challenge you to make a commitment to have a meaningful conversation with someone who does not look like you. Pick up that phone and call to see how a Black person in your personal or professional network is dealing with the situation. Now is not the time to hide behind your comfortable bubble.

Take a bold step and reach out to someone who may be in pain, someone who may be afraid, someone who may be unsure about what the future holds. We must start somewhere.

We have recently entered Phase One of reopening within a public health pandemic. We can commit to taking Step One toward reopening our hearts and minds within this social pandemic.
For more information on services offered by Tri-County Youth Services Bureau, visit our website at www.tcysb.org, email us at info@tcysb.org, or call us at 301-645-1837. It’s all about You(th).
Sincerely, L James
 


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