Showing up for children of color in our communities
The death of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Chicago seventh-grader who was shot by a police officer during a pursuit, is an immense loss to his friends, family, and the Little Village community. Adam’s death highlights the need for transformative violence prevention, reinvestment in our communities, and the dismantling of racial inequity and unjust systems that disproportionately cause harm toward people of color.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago’s mission to strengthen children, families, and communities requires that we show up for the children of color in our communities through affirming, inclusive, and trauma-informed care.
Through violence prevention and positive youth development, we strive to engage critically with the institutions, systems, and mindsets that continue to perpetuate a cycle of violence that claims far too many young people’s lives. Similarly, we recognize the need to provide Chicago’s youth with access to quality education, safe spaces to learn and grow, and improvements to their quality-of-life.
This work at the Y has historically been most rooted in our Youth Safety and Violence Prevention (YSVP) Initiative. The YSVP approach emphasizes that healing is prevention and aims to prevent violence by supporting the healing process. In these programs, YSVP staff and youth work through the trauma that structural racism, pervasive inequity, community violence, and health disparities cause to make way for transformation and hope.
Beyond YSVP, violence prevention is one of our mission anchors, informing many aspects of the Y’s work. Starting with our youngest children, our organization supports the development of social and emotional skills as an essential foundation for wellbeing. Safe, nurturing, and enduring relationships are vital to healthy child development and equip our youth with the strength needed to face the toxic stress brought forth by societal inequities. Healing and promoting resilience is a parallel process.
As one of the many organizations and institutions serving communities affected by the cycle of violence, it is our foremost responsibility to lead by example and address persistent racial bias, a factor that undercuts the ability to effectively de-escalate violence, while providing communities and youth with support. Training and understanding of trauma-informed intervention should be a fundamental requirement in working and engaging with all communities.
In the wake of Adam Toledo’s death and other similar tragedies, the YMCA’s commitment to youth development, social responsibility, and violence prevention drive us to be catalysts for change in our local communities. We implore other organizations, institutions, and individuals to do the same for the sake of our communities, our youth, and the City of Chicago.