Our world is hurting and hungry for change. Black people in this country are leading a fight for justice—a fight against four hundred years of racism and violence that continues to threaten Black lives and livelihoods.

In just the last year, YouthCare lost eight young people. Seven of them were Black. Two of them died at the hands of the police. I am angry. I am heartbroken.

But this movement needs more than my anger, more than my heartbreak. It needs leaders, especially White leaders like me, to recognize their power and privilege, to sit with their discomfort, and hold themselves accountable in undoing institutionalized racism in their agencies and communities. I’m challenging myself to be the leader YouthCare needs today, in this historic chapter, and in the future.  As I take this journey, I’m humbled by my staff and the young people we serve. They remind me that radical courage is needed for real change.

It is time to listen, to learn, and to take action—now. We are being called upon to build a society that is equitable and just. A society where our Black youth can not just safely exist, but thrive.

What does it look like for YouthCare to translate those values into action? Below, I’m sharing three times YouthCare staff and young people modeled courage and action these past two weeks. I hope it gives you strength—as it did for me—to join in action and keep fighting against racial injustice.

With appreciation and hope,

Melinda Giovengo, YouthCare President & CEO

1.YouthCare’s Letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan

It’s one thing to say we stand against racism and police brutality. It’s another to act.

Our staff gave us a lesson on bravery: we had raw and honest conversations about the work YouthCare must do to dismantle systems of oppression that disproportionately affect youth of color. This Thursday, we stood in solidarity with Black-led organizations who have been doing this work for years, and called on our Mayor, Jenny Durkan, to defund the police and invest instead in services and in our Black and Brown communities. Read our statement, learn more about Black Lives Matter Seattle – King County and King County Equity Now Coalition, and take action.

2. Our Staff & Young People are Making Their Voices Heard

A revolution is no longer knocking on our doors—it’s here. Our staff and young people are on the frontlines. They took to the streets to advocate for our Black community, to protest for justice, and to demand change. The Black and Brown youth we serve suffer the most from our systems founded and entrenched in white supremacy—and yet they rise again and again. They give us hope that a better society is possible.

3. Marching for Black Lives

Today, thousands of people will be striking and silently marching to affect change during Black Lives Matter Seattle – King County’s statewide day of action. With youth programs that run 24/7, we can’t shut down operations entirely, but we wanted to provide the opportunity for community and healing for our Black and Brown staff. We started a donation bank of hours and encouraged staff who presents with privilege to cover shifts in program. Together, staff donated over 500 hours to ensure Black and Brown staff could have the day to march, or rest, or take care of themselves. We’re moved by the generosity of our incredible staff. This is what community looks like and we’re proud to be a part of it. Learn more about how you can participate in today’s events.