After A Tumultuous Year, The Time To Recommit To Kids Is Now!

As we get closer to the holidays and a new year, I find myself taking some time to reflect. 2016 was tough in so many ways. The election. The death of many great artists. The media's normalization of hateful rhetoric. The continuation of over-policing of low-income communities and communities of color. The surge in hate crimes in a post-election America. We all just want 2016 to be over. Yet, for many of us who are a little bit older, we somehow have been able to process this tumultuous year, while recognizing that our work only gets more intense. But, for young people, I worry about how they are processing it all.

As the father of two beautiful teenage daughters, the loves of my life, I feel blessed to have a relationship where we can talk about their feelings, but sometimes I wonder how they are processing everything they are witnessing. I think about how I grew up in Hollis, Queens, where my biggest life lessons and education came from the streets; it took time for information to travel. My world was only about the streets around me and my selected day to day interactions. Nowadays, technology grants access to an unlimited amount of information and my girls get to see, hear and experience the world in an instant. Literally, in an instant.

As parents, we want to protect our kids as much as possible from external pressures and challenges, so that they have the space to grow and evolve into compassionate adults. Young people, today, are exposed directly to experiences from around the world on the phones they carry in their pockets or the computers they have in their schools or homes. Messages from a young seven-year-old in Aleppo, Syria fighting for her life pop-up on Twitter feeds. Facebook Live videos of people being shot and killed by the police scroll through timelines more frequently than ever before. Kids are seeing on social media millions of people around the country waking up to the fear of being separated from their families due to deportation; for many it is their parents, friends or neighbors. I can't imagine the anxiety and fear they feel and how it impacts their health and well-being. We all know that this is even more real for kids of color, who disproportionately receive the least amount of services to cope with their everyday struggles. This is critical for our country, because youth of color represent the fastest growing segment of the U.S. child population and make up the majority of the youth population in about half of the 100 largest cities.

Our kids are stressed, feeling unsafe and experiencing high levels of anxiety. According to new research from America's Promise Alliance, conducted by young people of color in their own communities, fear and mistrust of the police, inequitable access to social supports and community resources, and the lack of opportunities and experiences essential for healthy development, place this growing population at increased risk for poor health outcomes. It is our duty to support our young people, protect them and commit to their wellbeing. One effective tool that I have supported for years is meditation (or quiet time) in schools, which allows for all of the noise in a child's life to settle and gives them much more focus and discipline in their studies. I know there is a lot more we can do, however, first we must quiet the noise.

It is easy to give way to pessimism in the face of this new reality, and yet I feel a renewed sense of purpose and need to recommit my time, energy, and efforts to the creation of a healthier, more just and safe future for our young people, because they are doing the work. They are using their voices to speak out against racism, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-semitism, homophobia, and transphobia. They are leading protests and starting movements for change and I am humbled and encouraged by their bravery, tenacity, and passion to move this country into a better future. So, as they do the work there is no better time, as adults, to take a pledge to recommit to the kids of our nation. I encourage every adult to use their power, privilege, and platforms to protect, support, and guide our young people on their path.

We, as a nation, stand at the crossroads of major change and it is important that we use our collective energy to fight for a better tomorrow, because our young people are watching and they deserve our attention.

The time is now to #Recommit2Kids.