After Stoneman Douglas, making NEVER AGAIN a reality…
In the wake of the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School, we at Soul Shoppe must confess a painful truth. We have been stunned, paralyzed and silent, wondering what else there is to say that hasn’t already been said. How could we contribute to lasting healing and change? But as we watched our young people say, “Never Again” and rise up to use their voices, we finally found ours. Two letters follow: one to young people and one to adults.
Dear Young People
We’re sorry. We, the adults in this country, have failed you in so many ways. When you were born, you looked to the adults in your world to meet your needs, to feed you, clothe you, keep you safe and give you love. We have not done our job (keeping you physically and emotionally safe) leaving you the task of doing that for yourselves.
We have created communities where a young person can feel isolated, depairing, and in such pain that they could inflict so much violence around them. Although we know the cycle of violence and how pain can be turned into healing when it is met with empathy, we did not respond to your cries for help.
As you stand up in larger and larger numbers, demanding action and accountability to keep our schools and all communities safe, you inspire us. We recognize that in our inaction, in our growing cynicism coupled with increasing numbness, we grew to believe that nothing could be done. Or maybe that we were doing all we could.
You shouldn’t have to do this. We don’t want you to wonder if you and your friends are safe at school. Taking your time to advocate to reduce weapons in our communities. We don’t want you to plan marches in order for people to notice what’s wrong— and that your voices matter–and that the time is now.
The power in your voice has been evident since the moment you started speaking as a child. Your leadership is an asset. We see you in communities planning innovative ways to raise your voices as well as speak truth to your power. And connecting to each other across geographic and racial divisions. We will surround you with all the love and care you need. As adults, we will be true allies and use our own power–our skills, our resources, our access–to shine more light on your brilliance.
We promise to do right by you.
We must have the backs of our young people in our schools, in our communities and in our homes. Let’s recognize the voices of our young people for they are always the best authorities on their own experience. Let’s listen deeply to what they say and then take action. Here are some suggestions on where to start:
Learn to listen with an open heart and mind. Sometimes it’s challenging to listen. We have opinions, ideas, and so much advice! Our young people need our listening, not our judgment or feedback. Cultivate our listening by taking a moment to slow down so we can truly hear. We might be surprised by what we learn. Emma Gonzalez Opens Up
Create safe spaces at home to talk about and work through conflict. Use I-Messages and learn how to clean things up when our words or actions have caused hurt.
Intervene in the persistent stereotype of young people as problems to be solved and break the cycle of adultism. Name and change our own participation in adultist behaviors.
Recognize when we are numbing out, overloaded or unable to be our full selves. Tap on someone else to carry the load until we are fully charged again. Model self-care so that this rising generation of activists will have the tools to thrive as activists in the long term.
- Have the backs of our young people as they lead and plan actions around the country. Become informed about student rights. Show our full support of their voices by joining them and following their lead through the March for Our Lives Petition and March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24th.
Every day at Soul Shoppe, we witness brave, powerful young people who step into their vulnerability, share their experience and then receive the empathy and love of their classmates. We watch them stand up with courage and speak out, and as a result they inspire us. At the core of what we do is a commitment to be open and vulnerable, therefore having our young people move us with what they have to share. It’s time for all of us to stretch ourselves and have the same courage our young people are demonstrating. We promise to support these young leaders and their teachers, and to amplify their efforts as they show us how to create big-hearted communities where everyone belongs.