2020 has already been an incredible year of struggle for our society as Americans as well as globally. However, as we combat new challenges like COVID, we are also still working away at dissolving decades of inequality, mistreatment, and inexcusable unnecessary deaths in many communities. As Executive Director of Showcase Group, it is my daily mission to work within our communities to help change the future, end stigmas, and inspire a new generation to become something greater than they could have ever desired. Sadly, as we continue to make progress, there are many days when one step forward feels like two steps backward.
The tragic and brutal end of life for George Floyd has truly been the boiling point for so many Black Americans and their allies. Countless protests are the result of decades of frustration and unrest from so many in our country. Organized civil rights movements have been happening for over 70 years in this country, and still today we find ourselves living in a hell that is incomprehensible. 60 years ago, on February 1, 1960, the Greensboro Four sat at a “whites only” lunch counter and staged one of the first of many “sit-ins.” As I reflect on this being something so far in our past, yet so close to us in history, the emotions that millions of Americans today boil within me as we struggle to make sense of how these modern injustices are still taking place.
Showcase Group stands in solidarity with the Black community. Many of our team members and program participants are actively helping to make a change through peaceful and impactful protests. I am continually motivated by the words of the legendary Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” There is a distinct difference between looting and protesting, and I beg you not to lump the two into the same group. Giving attention and focus to looters, will ultimately take away from the impact the amazing and peaceful protestors are making across this country.
As a mental health professional and a human that has experienced blatant racism firsthand, I am urging you to understand this is the time to be involved, putting aside any societal or stereotypical label placed upon you. No matter your beliefs, we are all created equally, and now is the time for true equality.
Showcase Group continually teaches and practices many of the same principles that groups like Black Lives Matter is striving for in a better tomorrow. We spend a great deal of time with our participants focusing on social and emotional intelligence in everything we do. When we work with at-risk youth that have already faced incarceration, we help them understand that we are able to learn and grow from our experiences, no matter how dark or tough they may seem. This is especially true in coming together in spite of differences.
As Showcase Group is involved in impactful and peaceful protests to help make voices heard, honor those who lost their lives to unnecessary force, and end systemic racism, we are also continuing to support our participants who need us most. We are working with some of the most remarkable humans we have ever met that are fighting for their futures amidst a pandemic and now are also struggling with how to make their voices heard while not facing further incarceration or personal set back.
To help those fighting so hard for a better tomorrow, please remember to focus on mental health and treating trauma. Just as has been discussed with COVID, limit your screen time across all devices. Seeing lives ending on TV should make you feel uncomfortable and upset, this is what is causing so much unrest. However, do not get lost in those emotions. Showcase Group believes that inherently, most people are born good. We cannot let a stream of media detract us from making personal and societal progress. Join your loved ones and your community to show up in numbers so our lawmakers, businesses, and society as a whole see that there are many more people ready for justice and equality than those that may still be living in years past.
If you yourself are finding it hard to cope with your emotions or know of a loved one that is struggling to make sense of current issues that are pushing them over the edge, our licensed counselors and services are available to help you. Further, we humbly and eagerly ask you to consider becoming a youth advocate within our organization. Many of our youth are receiving overwhelming amounts of information via social media, and we know that is putting many of our youth in a very fragile state. As a youth advocate, you can change and save lives by providing an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, arms to hug, and a voice to reason with.
Part of Showcase Group’s mission is also providing basic everyday needs to families actively participating in our programs. With this additional economic impact continuing to set families back, we are graciously accepting donations so we may continue dispersing SWAG Bags to those within, those leaving, and those avoiding juvenile detention centers, as well as providing families with gift cards to the grocery store to keep food on the table.
There is unequivocally no room for systemic racism and injustice in our society. Today, we acknowledge and reflect on the life of George Floyd and the lineage of Black lives which have been devastated by deep-seated racial discrimination for decades. The time for change is now.
For over 7 years, Showcase Group has set out to provide support and resources to justice-involved youth and families in underserved communities across Georgia. Today, we continue the commitment to educating ourselves and we pledge to prioritize antiracism in our work and in our lives, each and every day. To our Black Showcase Groupers and staff, we hold space for you in our hearts, minds, and prayers and we stand with you. We are committed to elevating your voices.
We are hopeful that from this tragedy, a seismic shift will bring about great change.
Unreservedly, Black Lives Matter.
John Kennebrew, LPC