On Friday, April 13, I attended the third California State Assembly Hearing on the Status of Boys and Men of Color (BMoC)—this one in Fresno—and as always it felt great to be a part of work that so directly relates to my experience and that will also affect the future of my nephew. The hearing in Fresno was part of a series of local hearings, Oakland (January 20), Los Angeles (March 2), and Coachella Valley that have been convened to discuss challenges facing men and boys of color and highlight promising programs and practices that are working to overcome those challenges. As usual there was a positive vibe, impassioned testimony, and wonderful examples of people who are doing inspiring work on behalf of boys and men of color. I worked the registration table for most of the event so I had a chance to see and interact with a lot of the people who came to be a part of the hearing. Many of the folks in the room were there not as presenters but because they care about the futures of their sons, brothers, and fathers.
I will always remember the Fresno hearing for two things: hoodies and a flash mob. It sounds a little silly at first but in different ways they both symbolized the core reason for this work and the balancing act that boys and men of color deal with everyday. The flash mob was about life and a bright future with endless possibilities. The music, movement, and even the clothing that the youth wore represented the infinite aspirations that can only be achieved through equity for those most affected by racism and class inequalities. On the other hand, the hoodies represented the very real dangers that many boys and men of color face every day. They represented the legacy of centuries of racial and economic oppression that have succeeded in devaluing the lives of young men and boys of color and, in the eyes of many, making them the focus of fear. I really appreciated how the planning committee in Fresno placed both of these symbols front and center at the hearing because it illustrated clearly why this work is of the highest importance. This is life and death.
I was proud to be a part of an event that was unafraid of ruffling feathers and bucking protocol for the sake of serving and engaging our youth in a real and authentic way, dealing with difficult and controversial issues directly and without apologies. So often, in formal events like a hearing, we get locked into the strict rules and procedures and lose some of the real human emotion. It was great to see both the joy and hope of the youth we are working with, as well as the raw emotion and outrage that comes with a case like Trayvon Martin’s. In order for this all to work we need the engagement of youth and we also need to be agile enough to respond to the events that are happening to them on a daily basis. Bravo to Fresno for being brave enough to wear hoodies for Trayvon, and dance for a brighter future for boys and men of color.
Also, I encourage everyone to check out this blog post from Harvesting Health on the Fresno hearing, including great video of the flash mob!