Like many of you, the events and issues over the past 60 days have left me exhausted, where I have had little sleep and also very little peace. In the last 30 days or so, we have witnessed the murder of two black men and one black woman. I cannot unsee the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. As a sister, an aunt, a daughter – all to black men, I am heartbroken. Even more heartbroken, because once again I need to have the conversation with my beautiful child about the racial inequity and hate that is plaguing our country.
At Covenant House Greater Washington, we are doing our best to manage a public health crisis in the middle of a homeless crisis. However, I firmly believe that we will not win in the movement to end youth homelessness in this city or in this country, unless we also speak and act against the systemic racism and oppression that is often at the root of why many black and brown youth find themselves homeless in the first place.
The two are inextricably linked. In this country, African Americans, make up more than 40% of the homeless population, but just 13% of the general population. 99% of the youth we serve at Covenant House Greater Washington are African American, in a city that is now less than 50% black.
We also know that similar disparities exist with the rates of death as a result of COVID-19 in the DMV and the country at large. There is an African proverb that says “the child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.” I am in no way condoning the recent violence that has erupted in our city and in every major city in the country. However, I understand the passion and rage. I also believe that a 60 day plus quarantine, millions of people being unemployed, economic insecurity for many of our friends, family members, and neighbors, the uncertainty of this pandemic, added with recent events of racial injustice were the components of a perfect storm. I am both hopeful and inspired by the passion of the peaceful protests, while at the same time weary on how we will move forward.
Our work at Covenant House Greater Washington is guided by the value of giving our youth unconditional love and support, to be the village, and at this moment to acknowledge and work through anxiety and anger with our youth. Our support also compels us to speak out against the systems that oppress them.
Today and in the days to come, I hope that we will give ourselves some grace, give our youth some grace and give each other some grace.
I am also asking that you join Covenant House Greater Washington in our efforts to be the village that brings unconditional love and warmth to youth experiencing homelessness, disconnection and exploitation in the greater DC area.
Angela Jones Hackley
Covenant House Greater Washington