Opinion

After George Floyd, Black and Brown People Need Voice Plus Seat At the Table

ost: 5 white people, 1 black man at table having business meeting

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Dear America, 

Why are we so shocked in this country after witnessing a black man being killed? Is it because of the way he was killed? I feel that this time people seem to be more aware of the problems that run deep into the soul of this country, and of how black and brown people are treated on a daily basis because of the color of their skin. 

I used to be hopeful that when people saw the disparities of how people of color were treated that things were truly going to change, but then we would have outrage for a few days or minutes and nothing seemed to have changed. 

ost: Jennifer Bonner (headshot), president of Michigan Afterschool Association, smiling woman with black hair, wearing black necklace, black jacket

Jennifer Bonner

Maybe after the country has witnessed for themselves this shameful act we will truly make a change for the betterment of all men. I am only hopeful, but at the same time I have seen how this has played out so many times in the past and nothing changes.

As an African American woman who heads up the Michigan AfterSchool Association, an organization that provides professional development in out-of-school time plus is the membership base of  out-of-school time members, it has been deeply troubling to see what has taken place in our nation. I have sat at the table and personally witnessed racial disparity. People of color are often asked to sit at a table and then find our voice is not heard. We only have a seat, not a voice. 

I am one who has extended many olive branches over the past few years and been told by others that we are looked at as a black organization because of who sits as the lead of the organization. I have been mocked, screamed at and even had a finger pointed in my face to chastise me as if I were a child. Being on the receiving end of this type of behavior causes even the strongest individual (like myself) to sometimes question my value and self-worth. 

Oh yes, Amy Cooper (white privilege) of Central Park is not the only one. When people in power have purse strings to support your organization but choose not to because of the color of your skin they do have the power and it must change. We must all work together to create an even playing field for all people who are trying to do the right thing when working with are youth.

Until people who look like me have a real seat at the table and have a voice nothing will change for brown and black people. Now is the time to take a stand and work with your state, city and local government municipalities. 

Leadership for change starts at the top and we need to make sure that we vote people out of office who are not working to build diversity for all. We must bring a diverse coalition to the table to make decisions for our black and brown youth and be aware that they will address the needs of poor communities that suffer from racism, education disparity and social despair. 

I will and I am going to keep fighting for racial and social justice and equality. I will keep sounding the alarm on all racial injustices that I see taking place in education and state and city governments. We need people from those black and brown communities to have a voice and to share what is needed within their brown and black communities.

We can no longer keep doing what we have been doing in this country. Everyone is watching. Now is the time to wake up and do the right thing. 

So I say to you, keep protesting and stand up for what is right but at the same time remember that George Floyd was just the result of something that has been manifesting for decades. Remember, this cannot just be a feel-good moment for us; it truly must be a changing moment in our lives. Until we can sit at the table and be part of making changes to policies that affect people of color, nothing will change. 

Finally, we need to make sure everyone votes. Unless you are voting people out of office, sitting on school boards and making sure that you are voting in every election and teaching communities the importance of voting, nothing will change. Yes, all human lives matter!

Jennifer Bonner is president of the Michigan Afterschool Association. She is very passionate for youth and providing quality in the out-of-school time field.

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