As a Black-led organization with deep roots in Southeast Seattle, we acknowledge that systemic racism has caused deep and lasting trauma to the youth and families we serve, especially those in Black, Indigenous and communities of color — who live in unrelenting fear of police violence.
Racism is reality that people of color have lived with for centuries. Yet for many in this country, and all over the world, the reality of racism has only recently started to come into clear focus.
The work we do at Southeast Youth & Family Services aims to lead young people, their parents and caregivers on a path to healing, hope, and healthier lives. We often do this work one person at a time. Yet we know that true healing from the innumerable traumas that racism has inflicted on our society for generations will require fundamental change at every level of every system and institution that perpetuates race-based injustice and inequity.
We must rethink the way that every system and every institution work. We must closely examine the history and present-day realities of poverty, homelessness, inequities in health care and education, employment and mass incarceration.
All summer long, we have been grieving for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, for Manuel Ellis and Charleena Lyles. It’s a grief that doesn’t go away when protests die down. We grapple with shock and anger every time yet another Black man is shot by police, one more reminder to our Black and Brown fathers and sons, brothers and uncles, that they could be the next Jacob Blake.
We appreciate that so many people and organizations, here in Seattle and all over the country, are taking to the streets to protest police violence. We’re encouraged that so many people are engaging in serious and uncomfortable conversations about racism — more than we’ve ever witnessed in our lifetimes.
These difficult conversations need to keep happening. We must also move beyond words, take real and meaningful action, hold our elected officials and community leaders accountable.
We must lift up the voices in communities of color and listen. We must demand change. Change is long overdue, and it will only happen if we all embrace that we all have roles to play — active roles — in dismantling racist systems that perpetuate injustice and violence.
When we do this, together, we’ll realize that beneath all the complexities of racial injustice, it all boils down to a simple idea: It’s everybody vs. racism.
— Board of Directors, Southeast Youth & Family Services