Youth At The Table

A piece I wrote in June of 2020 as I was reflecting on all my first year of teaching taught me. Our youth get left out of so many conversations. We forget to see them in their full humanity – in their brilliance and resilience. This piece is one I continue to come back to as we navigate a school year full of shifts and changes that kids are never given a space to share their own input on.

It is time for the youth to be at the table – leading what is happening around the table.


We believe in the young 

We say “Only the Young” 

We tell them that they are the change we need.

Yet, we leave them out of 

Participating in the conversations 

Around the table 

That are all about them.

 

We assume, 

Before we listen.

 

We make changes, 

Before counseling.

 

We silence you,

Before even giving you the chance to speak.

 

But, dear youth, 

We more than need you- 

You are the Lighthouse to the storm at sea 

You are the Artists capturing the depth of beauty and pain 

You are the Historians naming the current history 

You are the Poets writing our way through feeling and healing 

You are the Story-tellers washing the Whiteness away 

You are the Dreamers, developing new ways to reshape what Home means

You are the Seeds within us all that we forgot how to nourish 

You are the Songs that sing louder than an anthem that ignores how unfree some have had to be

You are the Authors of your own stories 

You are the Leaders that should get to take center stage.

 

We have failed you.

We have to unsee many things.

But, you are never what we have to unsee 

You are who we need to see-  

What we need to celebrate, 

Who we need to hear,

What we need to listen to, 

Who we need to nurture, 

What we need to sow into.

You are an emblem of Hope 

In a terrible terrible history.

 

We have failed you-  

In all that we taught,

And all that we didn’t teach. 

In all that we preached, 

And didn’t live.

In all that we did, 

But didn’t own up to.

 

We have failed you 

We have hurt you 

More than we can know.

Dear child,  

We are so sorry.  

Sorry that adults tell you to say sorry 

Without modeling how to do that

Themselves.  

Sorry that we failed,  

And that we continue to fail.

Sorry that our words mean nothing 

They are empty 

And weak 

And another part of our ploy to defend our own skin,  

Until what we speaks 

Does something.  

Sorry that you ever had to feel 

Unheard 

Unseen 

Unvalued 

Unwanted 

Suprussed

Oppressed 

Depressed 

By us 

By our words 

By our actions 

By our meetings 

About you 

But always done without you.

 

This time around 

I want to let the Lighthouse lead.  

The table is yours 

Invite who you want,

Lead how you need.

Speak your words-

Let them sing.  

I will be there to listen to you,  

To advocate besides you,  

To celebrate your bravery along with you. 

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