These are the words President Obama shared just four days after George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis. By this time, grief and anger were already rising across the nation, and we saw the beginnings of what would become the largest protest movement in the world. Further fueled by the news of the murders of Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and too many others, individuals from all walks of life, of all ages, took to the streets to demand America confront its history of unchecked racial violence enacted by everyone from vigilante neighbors to sworn officers of the state.
This is 2020. This is a year none of us could have prepared for, and never could have imagined. Before the masses took the streets to protest racism in law enforcement, we were already dealing with what the American Psychological Association described as a racism pandemic, where record unemployment, and the unimaginable health effects and death toll at the hands of COVID-19 and police violence continue to disproportionately impact people of color. We saw on vivid display the reason My Brother’s Keeper was created in the first place: communities of color bearing the impact of long-standing racism and discrimination that is built into the American system, which leads to maddening gaps in opportunity, health care, employment, education, housing, and the environment.
In the face of overwhelming grief and unprecedented loss in 2020, we also saw everyday changemakers, community leaders, and grassroots organizations set aside their own pain to take care of their neighbors. Individuals delivered food and personal protective equipment, established mutual aid networks, created online mentoring programs, responded to upticks in violence, organized protests online and offline, and did whatever was necessary to support youth and families who were disconnected, isolated, and in need. We saw that when we invest in organizations rooted in community, like those at the helm of the more than 250 MBK Communities, we improve our resilience and relationships and strengthen connections—all of which are critical during this racism pandemic.
Whatever plans MBK Alliance had for 2020 at the beginning of this year were thrown out the window. Instead, we listened to the needs of our youth and communities, pivoted quickly, and redoubled our commitment to speak with a louder voice about the countless ways systemic racism limits the lives and potential of our boys and young men, and their families. We continued to build and support a diverse, cross-sector coalition of leaders and organizations committed to advancing evidence-based programs and policy reforms that will reduce barriers and expand opportunity for our children in greatest need. In 2020 we truly saw the worst of times, but also the best of the American spirit of reaching back, speaking up, and helping out. And, we were proud to play a part in our own way.
Here are some of our highlights from the year past:
During our town hall with Congressman Lewis this summer, he said: “We must continue to be bold, brave, courageous, push and pull to redeem the soul of America and move closer to a community at peace with itself.”
Thank you to every MBK youth and community leader, local and national partner, donor, and champion for being bold, brave, and courageous. We are honored to work alongside you to ensure nothing stands in the way of our boys and young men and their biggest dreams. We wish you and yours a happy, healthful, and restful holiday season.
Every Good Wish,
Michael D. Smith
Executive Director, MBK Alliance