Black Youth Deserve to Live

Written by members of the Advocates for Youth’s Young Women of Color Leadership Council, and Angel Brown, Associate Director, LGBTQ Health and Rights

As this country mourns the death of Michael Brown, we recognize that this is the time to discuss the constant devaluing of young Black lives. Every day across our country, Black youth are told that their lives do not matter. They are thrown into the streets by families that reject them. They are abused by adults that are supposed to be there to protect them. They are denied an education that will equip them for adulthood. They are attacked, beaten, threatened and murdered in our communities, all across the United States.

Our youth deserve better. They deserve to be told that they are loved. They deserve to exist in spaces (homes, schools, playgrounds, community centers, churches, and sidewalks) in peace. When this country repeatedly sees bodies of Black young people slain in the middle of the streets (or in yards), we have failed our youth. We must uplift our Black youth! We must uplift all youth! We must protect Black youth! We must protect all youth!

We are saddened, we are enraged, and we are tired. Communities, jurisdictions, states and federal agencies must join us in affirming the lives of all Black youth. We cannot raise healthy children when they are being psychologically, physically, mentally, emotionally victimized on a daily basis. Black youth deserve the right to LIVE! Adults must do more than mourn and denounce the murder of Michael Brown. We must address the systematic oppressions and racism that negatively impact the lives of Black youth everywhere.

In this time of turmoil, feelings of unease and distrust in police have flourished as more black youth perish at their hands and as they respond with escalating violence to peaceful demonstrations. We must demand that law enforcement treat our young people with dignity and respect, protect them, and not subject them to violence and abuse.  

With this most recent tragedy comes our duty to remember the wrongful deaths of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, and countless others. Only then can we promote change. Black youth must value each other, despite what society may say. We are valuable, we are necessary, and we cannot let this go!