#WhatDoWeTellTheKids

The #BlackLivesMatter Movement has sparked an important and necessary time in our lives. But what I've battled with most is it needing to exist at all. 

Children growing up in underfunded neighborhoods - whose speed of life is already years ahead of their actual age - are now faced with new realities, and are forced to question why their lives didn't matter in the first place. Everyday life is becoming more and more confusing and scary. Recurring violence is unfortunately nothing new, but a different type of tension and unrest has taken over these communities. 

Perhaps the most untold story of this movement is the affect it's having on children, and the child development specialists working with these kids on a daily basis. How do you rationalize the nightly news to a 9 year old child? How do you justify there needing to be a movement validating the worth of their lives? How does it feel when you communicate detailed tactics to keep kids safe on the streets, but the same methods used ended up in a black person being shot dead? 

It's just not fair - not fair for these kids, and not fair for these professionals thrust into having all the answers. 

I am honored and humbled to be supported and surrounded by an incredibly committed and gifted community of child development specialists who allowed me to interview and photograph them so they could share their thoughts, fears and struggles. 

Their stories are told this week on our feed. #WhatDoWeTellTheKids?

 

 Chris M: Child Development Specialist, Camp POWER Staff Member

"The #BlackLivesMatter movement is absolutely affecting kids’ mindset. I’d stretch to say that it’s causing post traumatic stress. If you look at war vets watching their soldiers die next to them, it’s kinda like what these kids are watching on the streets. They turn on the TV and see people with the same color skin dying. How they think of the world is impacted. How they act around other people is being affected. Do they now think racial thoughts? Is this person with me or against me? Does this person feel my pain and know what I’m going through on a daily basis?

Even though #BlackLivesMatter is a movement now, we always had to fight and tell people that our lives matter, dating all the way back to slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc. It’s sad that we even have to say that our lives matter.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? You’re gonna see a lot. You’re gonna hear a lot. You’re gonna experience a lot. But that shouldn’t determine the man or woman you’re going to become. You gotta keep pushing forward. You gotta keep going. You’re gonna get angry. I’m angry, everyday. Any person that’s conscious enough to know what’s going on is gonna feel angry, but how you deal with that anger and how you express that anger and what you use that anger towards is gonna define who you are. So you can go out here in the streets and be angry all you want about your brothers and sisters getting killed, but that’s not gonna solve anything, make you better or your family better.

So how do you beat this? Getting good grades, striving to go to college, striving to get a career, striving to be the best you can be, striving to live your dreams...that’s how you beat this. Because you get yourself out of this environment and put yourself in better situations, surround yourself with better people giving you positive vibes and energy, but it starts here and starts with you.

I’m angry, but how do I deal with it? I dance it out...that’s why I dance so passionately because when I’m out there, I just think about everything I’m going through and dancing is my peace. What’s your moment of peace - what’s your silence? Whatever it is, tune into it, because that’s what’s gonna set a fire. Every time you turn on the TV you see something and say that’s not right, but then you gotta tune back into your peace and what you love.

Stay focused - moving forward, never back."

 

Stevi: Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Camp POWER Staff Member

"I have very much felt the #BlackLivesMatter movement working with kids of color, and am very aware of my whiteness at work. The benefit of working with this dynamic is that I’m not upset that they don’t want to trust me from day one. I get it. Who the hell am I? They don’t know me, I look the way I do, and I can’t expect them to think this person is kind, has a good heart, and means well. They know what they see in white people in their communities, whether that’s the police or social workers who a lot of times when I started my jobs the impression was that we just take kids away from families. I can understand why they are weary of me, but the only thing I can do and have done is be as authentic as possible and be me...loving, caring and supportive.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? I can be their ally and advocate, and no matter what my skin color is, I am there to support them 110%. Just last week a kid told me that two days in a row, police stopped and frisked him...which is illegal and unlawful. I didn’t have words to say to him, but I just sat there and listened. I didn’t say I’m sorry, I just said this sucks. This sucks that you have to live in a life and this body that is being stopped and questioned just because of the way you look.

What can I do to make him feel better and a bit safer in this situation? I can’t control what happens when he leaves our program, but I can control that he feels safe and supported with me.

Because I am a white person, I’m not personally living it, so what can I do to best educate myself and ask questions to kids? What’s it like for you in these situations? I can be their ally, their support, and something that I’m really good at is making people feel good about themselves and honing in on those unique things that make a kid so special.

The fact that this movement has had to be created in the first place makes me ill and gives me horrible stomach pains. I’m just trying to make sense of it all."

 

Amma: Child Development Specialist, Camp POWER Assistant Director

"#BlackLivesMatter has made my job a little more difficult. We’ve had so many conversations with young people about what to do if stopped by police officers - don’t move, don’t run. More recently, I don’t feel comfortable telling kids that as we’re seeing people being compliant with the police yet still getting killed. 

I’m torn on where I stand on this protest. Do we want to be silent? Violent? I just don’t know if anyone is listening, and although I agree with people rallying...I feel like it’s falling on deaf ears. When I think things are getting better, someone else gets killed. What bugs me the most is after someone gets killed - whether the police were right or wrong - you hear the laundry list about that person killed. They had a rap sheet, when reality is that they complied and did what was asked. It’s just been real difficult. 

I have had kids say to me, our lives don’t matter. How could they if this keeps happening? So I have to retrain that thinking, but some kids don’t believe that. Reshaping the thought process takes a lot. We’re trying to bring police officers to sites so that they don’t always see them as a threat. 

A black life and a white life are not equal. Not that this is right, but that’s what it is. I want the best for my son so he can avoid those things, but the reality is that it’s unavoidable. I’m afraid for my son and my kids every single day. The best kid in my school with honors could just be caught up. It’s terrifying. 

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? My first approach is that I identify as an adult who also doesn’t understand why it continues to happen. I don’t have an answer - it’s more of a conversation. I express to young people that I am also a mother of a black boy, and I’m worried about him as well.  

I remind them about opportunities like after school programming, Camp POWER and others. It is difficult, but we try and focus on the positives. It’s not an easy conversation and I feel like I’m sugarcoating and trying to glorify the positive when there’s not a lot of positivity in these neighborhoods and situations."

 

Terrell: Child Development Specialist, Camp POWER Staff Member

"I have 4th and 5th graders fearing for their lives and are super fearful because of incidents of 11 year olds getting killed carrying toy guns. It bothers me just to hear these conversations...it’s whack as hell that these kids need to even be talking about this.

We empower these kids to the point where they feel they can do and be whatever they want to. They leave our program feeling amazing about themselves, but could still get killed for no reason. They know who they are and appreciate themselves, but struggle with the idea that somebody else can’t appreciate them for the same reasons. I try to do my job and raise great citizens and the rest is up to the outside people.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? Be honest. Just be honest. People are getting killed for no reason. For ignorance. I can’t give them an answer. I can’t give them a why, but just reassure them that when they’re with me in this building...they’re safe. That kinda motivates them to come to school. In these communities, we got kids dropping out in 4th or 5th grade, so it keeps them on the right path, just to stay away from dangers as much as possible.

Stay you. Don’t let the world break you. Stay you. It’s bullshit and unfortunately I feel powerless at times, but I know what I can control, so I just do the best I can."

 

Scot: STATE Co-Founder, Camp POWER Co-Director 

"When I was 11 years old, my parents, sister and I watched "Roots" together as a family, and it completely changed me as a person, and the direction of my life. Although I was a white, Jewish kid growing up in the Boston suburbs, "Roots" hit me in an incredibly visceral way and sparked something that made me look at the world differently. I knew I could never match the intense feelings of bias, injustice and anger the black community felt about their embattled history, but I did carry those emotions. "Roots" opened my eyes to just how unfair and unbalanced life in America's inner-cities is. 

I spend a lot of my time here in New York riding the subways out to some of the furthest stops on the map. As I get deeper into the outer boroughs, it never fails that stop after stop, less and less white people are on the train with me. And eventually, just me. Aside from the blatant segregation that these type of moments unveil, what truly breaks my heart is the stigma these neighborhoods carry. They're "scary." They're "dangerous." They're "hopeless." Because when you work with kids in these communities, they hear it, too...and it trickles down to how they view society viewing them. They're "scary." They're "dangerous." They're "hopeless." 

At the end of every bag drop event, I make a speech that sometimes companies can be about more than just making money. I started the #WhatDoWeTellTheKids project because as beautiful we think our Instagram feed is, it could be even more so if we used our growing platform to shed light on how the #BlackLivesMatter movement is impacting the mindset of kids in underfunded communities as told through the mouths of those who work with them day in and day out. 

What I've battled most about the BLM movement is it needing to exist at all. I can't stand the notion that kids are forced to even wonder if their lives didn't matter in the first place. It makes me cry just to say those words (and I've done so in front of hundreds of kids and staff).  

This week is dedicated to the kids, and their role-models searching for answers. Our hats off to you. Thank you for guiding the present and our future."

 

Bob: Child Development Specialist, Camp POWER Staff Member

"I work in a very very diverse school, but there’s that core of black and hispanic kids who are very affected by what’s happening. At home, the response that they’re getting from their parents may be different from what we’re giving them at school. Their parents or guardians might be talking to them about protesting and getting involved, but in their hearts, they might not want to do that because they just want to be free and be kids.

So I look at it as sowing seed into the ground. We’re the planters and they’re the seed. In the midst of everything that takes place above ground, beneath that ground surface, there's a seed waiting to bud and eventually bloom. So if we know what's needed in order for the seed to grow to its maximum potential, why should we deprive it of a necessity? Plants need water, food, and sunlight to grow. It's true that it matters how much we give it, but it's also how much love we put into what we're giving. Our children matter because they are valuable. They are of great value. We labor diligently to ensure that they grow healthy. So let's give them what they need...not what we want to give them. But, the things we give to people can create life. 

So #WhatDoITellTheKids? I tell them you matter! Keep growing and keep loving. We can't just try to make a difference, we gotta BE the difference. So it’s definitely true that #BlackLivesMatter. But to me, Life as a whole matters... I just happen to be black."

When you turn on your TV and you look at what’s going on in the world, sometimes you might be tuned into the wrong channel and if you’re not watching clearly, the image you see will be static. That’s called white noise. The black and the white shifting and shaking against eachother. But in actuality, I look at it this way. Pick a clearer picture. My good friend always said, slit my wrist and my blood doesn’t excrete black or white, we all bleed red. So if we all pour out that red, the color of love...love will overpower and overtake the world. That’s the better picture. Can you see it?"

 

Kelly: E-Comm Exec, Camp POWER Staff Member

"Growing up I had a nanny named Ella who lived with us. Ella was born in S.Carolina in 1939 and would tell us stories about her childhood, like the time she and her brother went swimming at the public pool and the locals drained the pool. Ella was a third parent to me and I could never understand why she would be treated any differently. It created an ache in me my entire life. 

Today I go to my lunch spot near my office and last time I counted: 13 black or hispanic people behind the counter making minimum wage (1 white manager), and 95% white, white-collar customers. If that isn't manifest systemic racism I don't know what is. 

This is what #BlackLivesMatters means to me and it is everywhere I look. It goes so far beyond abuses of power. It is acknowledging what our history of racist policies has wrought, it is owning our white privilege and white debt, as uncomfortable as it may be. 

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? I work at Camp POWER and tell my girls that they are important, powerful, loved. My problem is that despite what I tell them, if we don't fix our policies and mentalities, life will still be harder for them. We tell them they can be anything they want to be but the truth is that the deck is stacked against them, having come out of underfunded schools, unstable communities, and heading into a workforce with black skin. Honestly, I really don't know what to tell them! The whole thing kills me. 

So what do I do? I own my unearned, undeserved privilege and try to put it to good use. I try to explain to my complacent or "not racist" friends how we are so NOT living in a post-racial society, how you can't expel the ghost of slavery and Jim Crow overnight, how it's not as easy for a man with black skin or a black name on his resume to just "pull himself up by his bootstraps" and get a decent job when he's been carrying around an insanely unjust burden his entire life. I speak out for Ella and millions of people like her who weren't given the advantages I happened to be born into. 

There’s that saying: "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are." We should all be outraged.”

 

Ledfi: Child Development Specialist, STATE PackMan, Camp POWER Staff Member

"Kids are coming off as a little bit frightened and hesitant. They’re curious and we try and shed as much light as possible because it’s getting ugly.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? I always let kids know off the bat that whatever color they are, they’re beautiful and to not let whatever people may think of them change who they are. You can do whatever you want to do - and never let that judgement change you.

I also remind them to not lose hope or site of how great the world can be. Racism is kinda like the tree...there’s roots there but if we cut the branches off, we keep going and we can have a brighter future."

 

Macques: Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Camp POWER Staff Member

"It’s important to let kids that we work with know what #BlackLivesMatter actually is and means. You need to educate about the movement, and then implement it into their everyday lives so they have a better understanding of what they’re connecting themselves to.

First thing I always do when a child comes to me angry about what’s going on is to listen. Just listen. To say that we hear your questions, and understand your frustrations, but here’s what you can do. Finding out what he/she is into, what do they love. You love to play basketball? So what can you do at a basketball game that can bring awareness to the movement? Recite a poem, organize something, get people thinking. You see more and more kids in the protests, kneeling at the national anthem as they’re realizing that they can actually play an active role in this.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? Letting them know they’re loved, they’re blessed, they can accomplish all their goals because they hear everything opposite - they’re bad, they’re thugs. Taking them to places - I’ve worked with kids in Brooklyn who have never been to Manhattan! If a kid is stuck in Brooklyn, how can they dream beyond that?

I also remind them that when you’re going after your dreams, there’s going to be adversity. There’s going to be people who try to prevent you from getting to where you want to go, so it’s important we let them know that before they reach that adversity to prepare them for what’s ahead. You can do this, but look at the adversity not as a roadblock but a stepping stone."

 

Tyler: Photographer, Camp POWER Staff Member 

"I don’t think the word ‘rationalize’ applies to the tragedies that were dealing with. If someone truly figures out a way to rationalize this situation, I’d be really interested in hearing what that rationalization is.

You know, especially not being from that world, how am I supposed to talk to a kid about this without sounding at least a little bit patronizing? I don’t have to deal with it first hand the way these kids do, and that’s incredibly sad that that inequality exists on a pretty common basis.  That I can say, almost unequivocally, I will not be in the situation that some of these kids will be in, being that they’re black, and from poor neighborhoods, and am I white.

I think that the best thing we can do is tell these kids - and I know they hear it all the time - to try their best to comply with whatever authority figure is asking them to do while trying to maintain some semblance of safety...and it’s so sad that those don’t always go hand in hand anymore, meaning that when dealing with a police officer, you aren’t also always safe. The thought of that makes me sick to my stomach. I know that it’s not every case, but to not address it head on, especially with our youth, is doing a disservice to them.  

This is a situation that has to be addressed, because of course their lives matter. To think for a second that they don’t matter or are in someway less valuable, I’m truly at a loss for words in how to describe that train of thought. It truly just doesn’t compute to me.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? I find it hard to avoid clichés here, but what else do you say? You say you are loved, of course your life matters, and not all police are bad. Try to focus on the great things in your life, the things you love, and know it’s not all bad and you will always have people that love you."

 

Webster, Child Development Specialist, Camp POWER Staff Member

"When #BlackLivesMatter first started, to us it felt like a normal issue that we needed to address as this was a thing we’ve seen in society for a very long time, kind of like bullying. But lately it’s become an ongoing conversation, and we don’t know how the conversation will end.

We tell the kids to not stay out too late, not wear a hoodie, not hang out by yourself, etc, and then you see a kid on the news who followed those exact instructions, and they’re dead...and now we have to revisit that conversation and say, well, plan A didn’t really work out, but what about plan B? But we don’t really know what plan B is. People are following instructions and they’re dying. Feels like a dead end because we have to continue to raise awareness about the issue, but there’s no right or wrong answer on how to protect yourself, especially with kids. For me to give kids instructions, I also have to understand how to do it...and I don’t have an answer.

Our kids know their lives matter, but the conversations we’re having are more about how they can have an impact on the community so that the rest of the world can see that they do in fact matter. Not just protesting, but making an impact within the community. I brought a group of students together to build a website on how best to protect yourself to try and decrease the tragedies and brutalities. Therightproject.info - this could be their legacy.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? To seek someone out that you can have a conversation with, like me. There’s no right or wrong answer or solution...so just verbalize how you feel, be honest, and channel that through a positive outlet rather than rioting because all that does is destroy what we’ve built in our own communities - more deaths and more reasons for people to look at us as savages.

#BlackLivesMatter was established to show that everything we’ve done to excel - getting degrees, full time jobs - none of it matters because you’re still a black person in society, and that’s all you’re going to be. The movement exists to basically say it does matter...where we came from and where we are today means something."

 

Hannah: Child Development Specialist, Camp POWER Staff Member

"This hits home in a different way now as it’s personal being that I’ve married a black man. We’re going to have kids one day that are going to be directly impacted by the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Webster struggles with the fact that he doesn’t know what to tell the kids because what he communicates ends up not working for other people.

The fact that we have to tell kids they can’t wear a hoodie down the street when other kids can just feels confusing and wrong. “I do matter but I still can’t do the same thing a white kid can?”

#WhatDoWeTellTheKids? To look to role models. Look to people around them - do they matter to you? Try and focus on that as opposed to the negativity."

 

Chris: Entrepreneur, Camp POWER Staff Member

"One of the interesting things about #BlackLivesMatter coming to the forefront is that it’s pushed the issue of communicating about race. In a weird, perverse dynamic it’s actually been productive as it’s become a medium where we can have conversations about race even with kids. At Camp POWER, there’s no way around the fact that I’m this white dude amongst a sea of black peoplE, and it throws them off a bit, but it opens the door in a cool way.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? There’s no right way or guidebook of handling a question like “why don’t we matter?” It’s all uncomfortable, new and daunting. I’ve always thought of the movement of being the most visceral product of something that’s been going on for centuries...which is black people being killed for no reason.

There’s a very real sense of are we actually equal? My approach has always been to try and be as best of a friend to every kid I interact with as possible, and make the direct relationships I have with them feel reinforcing and on the same level. A lot of the kids are just intimidated to come up to a white guy and ask that direct of a question, even though I want them to know that they matter, and they’re loved, and they have tremendous opportunity.

Sometimes it feels like there’s more that I almost want to say than they’re explicitly asking for. I think there’s a lot of institutional silence around it, too. I’ve noticed while talking to a lot of black friends about race that we’ve become closer because we talk about it. I wish more of the kids could witness us having these talks. The more conversations we have around race, the better.

I took part in the #BlackLivesMatter march because a sense of requirement ultimately drove me to it, and I want to do more just like it.

There’s this old political comment that says for every person marching, there’s 100 more people that feel the same way but just had some other stuff to do that day. When you ultimately do decide to go out and do something, I think you are actually representing at least 100 more people who feel the exact same way, and your presence is magnified."

 

Jonathan: Child Development Specialist, Camp POWER Staff Member

"My conversations with kids are usually about basketball, hip hop, and other stuff, but a lot of conversations now are about understanding their value because of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Kids now are just confused and wondering if their lives ever didn’t matter. The negativity is easily absorbed, so we try and keep telling them the positive sides of things.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? I’m going to keep reminding kids that we’re survivors. Slavery - we survived. Jim Crow - we survived. Police brutality and 2016 - we survived.

I do my part in telling kids to be great at what they do, and don’t let anything stop you, regardless of the outside circumstances. And being a role model, being a light and beacon to show that you can overcome the adversity because there’s been people before you who paved the way, so now it’s your turn to show the younger generation and the older generation that what they did was not for nothing.

We can’t look only for self anymore - it’s looking out for fellow man on your right and left. It’s time to do more across the board - in your community, reaching out to the youth, and creating a positive light as too many kids are only seeing the negatives in the world around them."

 

Beryl: STATE CEO, Camp POWER Staff Member

"It is insane that we live in a world, a country, a city, a community where we even have to declare that #BlackLivesMatter. Of course they matter! They will forever matter!
It's heartbreaking that we need this rallying cry and even more devastating that this call to action is seen as divisive. Words seem to be failing us now. Words… words… words… I want to help fix the problem with my actions.

Every summer, my husband and I bring our children, Abe and Jonah, to Camp POWER. We take a week long “vacation” with 200+ children from NYC’s most underfunded neighborhoods.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? I tell each and every child they are beautiful, wonderful, important, and special. I give endless high fives and hugs. And maybe most importantly, I keep showing up. Something as simple as showing up makes a difference and we've seen it first hand time and time again.

And I will keep showing up. Always."

 

Lauren: Child Development Specialist, Camp POWER Staff Member

"I teach performing arts, and I’ve told my kids that you have to remember people are counting on you to either make it or not. A lot of the problems when it comes to the kids feeling they don’t matter are the existing self esteem issues they’re already dealing with. The #BlackLivesMatter movement doesn’t make it much easier for them, but that’s where I come in. Praising their effort, their worth, their value.

Just recently, our school was on lockdown because someone got shot across the street. I saw how they went into panic mode, going into the corner, farthest away from the window. I reassured them that they were safe, but they were immediately on guard. They know where they’re from is not safe as kids, but that’s why I work with them and so many other people.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? I strive to get kids out of Brooklyn to perform their emotions - youth voice and choice. This year their chosen performance topic was police brutality. I’m just there to continue to encourage and support with the tools they need to learn and grow. It’s working out well, because now they have an outlet and know I’m there to support them." 

 

Roger: Child Development Specialist, STATE PackMan, Camp POWER Staff Member

"The kids are confused and angry about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the value of who they are and potential may never be properly captured within themselves because there’s a lot of individuals around them that are influential, but in a negative way.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? What I currently tell the children I work with is to have goals. If you take time in your day worrying about being a victim of brutality or shot, you’re going to be a nervous wreck. So what you do is teach them to have goals and stay focused on them.

If your goal is to have a car, you need a job...but how do you get that job? You need to be educated in that field, or networking to meet people in that world. If you don’t teach them this way, we’re going to have mental cases all over the streets, trying to figure out why me, etc. Give them goals and help them to achieve those goals. Push through."

 

Slade: Media Executive, Camp POWER Co-Director 

"I have a job in which I sift through every injustice that happens in America on a daily basis as the head of a video unit at a media company. All day I sit and I watch brutality, I sit and I watch systemic unfairness, I sit and I watch certain types of people move up in the world while underserved communities stay the same. 

What happens with things like Camp POWER, and all the people who are doing everything possible to impact these kids’ lives on a personal level, is that we’re afforded the chance to not just look at it all on a screen, and not to simply see injustice happening in a police dash cam or CCTV footage, but to see actual lives in action. I hope we are playing a very small part in making sure these kids don't get swallowed whole by the status quo.

These kids are really smart and perceptive, and as #BlackLivesMatter has picked up and police brutality and killings seem like the norm, they see the people who go out of their way to be a part of their communities not as a threat, but as somebody who is trying to bridge that gap. They see us as people who aren't gonna sit here and give them the BS that "I don’t see color," but rather, I do see color and that’s why I’m here. I don’t think there’s a world in which these kids look at white volunteers that come to Camp POWER and see anything mischievous or malicious or something to be on guard from. I think they regard us as the opposite - in that it’s someone safe who is deciding to spend their time working with them given the things going on in the world.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? MLK said the arc of the moral universe is long but bends towards justice. Then the queer community came along and said “It gets better.” Putting those two movements together, I’d say we are getting better as a society. We are prosecuting police who do dirty deeds. We are shaming people on social media who go out of their way to post racist, xenophobic and misogynistic remarks. We are doing these things for this next generation so that by the time these kids today have kids of their own, they hopefully won’t know these problems...or won’t know these problems as much."

 

Alfredo: Teacher, Business Executive

"As a father, it scares me because of what she has to grow up with. When she sees something happening, and saying the words #BlackLivesMatter, I ask her does she really understand what that means? To be a different shade of color and the history that we’ve endured as people. It’s important that she understands that - what it means and that she’s educated and not just part of a statistic and a negative experience with the authorities. 
So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? My message to kids I work with is that unfortunately nothing can change the pigment of your skin, but what can change is what you put in your brain and contribute to society. The color of our skin is just that...it doesn’t dictate who we are. I’ve seen the affect on these kids because they just don’t know what’s going on. They see what’s happening on TV and the news and make their assumptions on their own. 
What’s always been a miss in our communities is that our young people don’t get exposed to enough positive role models in their lives and different thought processes other than sports and music. 
It’s up to people like myself because we’ve been successful in different ways and are part of these neighborhoods. We’ve lived what these kids have gone through, but we seeked out friends and family to guide us and show purpose in our lives." 
Jacq: STATE Co-Founder, Camp POWER Co-Director 
"Since my husband has been leading the charge with this project, I've been lucky enough to hear the full interviews from our friends and colleagues. All of them said such powerful, thought provoking things and approached this issue at different angles, but what Amma said really stuck with me, and totally broke my heart. "Jair and Ozzie are not the same." Those words swirled around in my head over and over and I just couldn't get through the glaring truth behind that. In today's world, they aren't the same.

Despite living in the same borough, being similar in age, laughing at the same Elmo, and eating the same applesauce, my white skinned baby boy is not the same...and it's so unfair and unsettling.

Sadly Amma's baby boy that she loves the same way I love mine will grow up living in a way that my child will not understand.... all because the color of his skin.

This rocks me to the core, thinking about all the moms out there who worry about the future of their babies for that very reason. We teach lessons on how to be a good man, how to treat a lady, listen to your teachers, show good manners, but despite all of that - it could all come down to the color of their skin and that's nothing short of despicable.

So #WhatDoWeTellTheKids? I'll continue to do what I've always done - shower them with hugs, listen and look them in the eye when we talk, and remind them of the incredible role models surrounding them that have successfully risen from similar, challenging circumstances. But after hearing these interviews, I'm equally focused on what I tell my own children so they grow up aware of injustice, imbalance, and will carry a commitment to never be comfortable with that, and to be the change. To stand up for those whose voices aren't being heard. To stand with those that are overlooked. And to stand strong that standing firm is the right thing to do. I will continue to teach them that love has no color - that your skin can be white and someone else's can be brown or purple or green, but like we're learning - love is love is love. We're all human beings with beating hearts and open minds and that everyone can shine from the inside out."
Tags:
#WhatDoWeTellTheKids, blacklivesmatter, Camp POWER, kids, t talks