It is an overwhelming feeling when my readings in my doctoral program and the Bible collide with one another in a beautiful array of hope, love and passion, in a way that makes my heart burst with tears of joy at the idea of doing the work I love for the one I love.
I spend 4,000% percent of my time finding ways to improve the lives of Native youth around this country. In whatever capacity I can serve, I try to do so. My heart has belonged to Native youth for many years now and I am blessed that the good Lord has led my educational career down this same path.
For years I have worked with adults in educational settings who have a very dismal view of youth. And by youth, I discuss those between the ages of 14 and 24. The older I get, the more their complaints seem to flow. They are lazy. They don’t want to work. They can’t lead. They don’t want to learn. They are ignorant. They are stupid. They have bad attitudes… and let the list continues.
I spend time at conferences surrounded by Native American youth who are absolutely positively going to change this world and those previous comments become null and void to me. But, what damage has this mentality already done to our Native youth?
In some of my most recent readings by author Henry Giroux, I was shocked when he discussed the ‘war on youth‘. Representing a disproportionate amount of the poor and homeless in this country, it’s as if, we, as a nation, are taking out our anger on our youth. We are building prisons faster than we are building schools. Investing millions in the juvenile detention centers and cutting pay for teachers. When did we start attacking our youth? Our educational system has taken on the persona of “governing through crime” where we view our young people as criminals and incarceration as the only option. Our attack on youth must end.
And this, my friends, is where things get real juicy.
By this point in the text I am completely depressed and swallowed up in a puddle of tears as I think about the amazing Native youth in this district, state and nation. Youth that fight for the rights of their people. Youth that seek out opportunities to lead. Youth that WILL be running their tribes in the future.
And I realize. Enveloped in this system of crime, fear and attack on youth. Embedded in the crevices of our educational system. Silenced in the nooks and crannies of our minds are those with hope. This hope came to me in the chapter on the discussion of Paulo Freire and his passion for critical thinking, engagement and empowerment of our students. Don’t silence them. Encourage them. Don’t silence them. Let them question. Don’t silence them. Teach them to act. Don’t silence them. Let them struggle with the complexities of racism, elitism, poverty and injustice. Don’t silence them. Encourage them to “think otherwise in order to act otherwise”. Freire sought to “unveil opportunities for hope, no matter what the obstacles may be”.
Smile, my dearies, for there is hope and there is no greater author on the topic of Hope than the good Lord above.
You must always remember…
For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind -Isaiah 40:30-31 (MSG)
Love our young people. Support our young people. Though we fall short of your expectations, know that your encouragement and strength could mean the difference between us standing back up or remaining on the ground.
I am where I am because the leaders ahead of me chose not to focus on my shortcomings but instead to foster my strength. Leaders, educators, parents, advisors, mentors, I challenge you to fight back on this war on our youth. Pray that your perception of youth is strategically altered to find their strengths in all of their weakness, their light in all of their darkness, their power in this all encompassing world of doom.
I pray that you are to Native youth whom God has been to you.