Nearly two years into a destabilizing global pandemic characterized by increased isolation, lack of face to face contact, and a rapid disruption to “normal life” as we knew it, we find ourselves negotiating re-entry both slowly and all at once. The rules of engagement are changed but togetherness and community are once again possible. Empowered by vaccine options (and in some cases mandates) we have witnessed teachers and students re-enter schools, the slow recovery of an in person workforce beyond “essential businesses,” and increased freedom of movement and gathering.
In this new and old place of engagement we are caught in a balance. New variants, increased political polarization over social issues that affect our most marginalized communities, the hope for a stabilizing “normal” paired with our awareness of broken systems, the tensions of working out our commitments to solidarity across difference, and the ongoing navigations of what it means to be a living, breathing, human being.
Add to these collective anxieties, housing insecurity, mental health access barriers, school GPA’s, extracurricular activities, college preparedness, and interpersonal relationship stressors and we can begin to understand the uptake in psychological distress amongst youth. These primarily including increased anxiety and overwhelm, depression, and suicidal ideation and attempt.
Y-WE has continued to center youth wellness as a top priority. This has looked like the emergence of growing affinity groups, the hiring of a full time licensed social worker for increased mental health support, increasing our community care and mutual aid networks, creating intentional spaces for youth to share their anxieties and concerns in community, and most recently with our Black Girls Matter Day of Wellness in which we gathered for a sound bath meditation, mental health discussion with a licensed therapist, joy practices, zumba, art making, self care and intergenerational relationship building.
Black Girls Day Matter of Wellness served as a direct response to the undeniable humanity of the black girls and women in our community. We continue to witness the ongoing national debate over the value of black life and livelihood and the subsequent distress it creates. We recognize the deep losses, the grief, and the unending exhaustion of continuing to perform in spite of. We claim black girl resilience as magic.
We don’t just say “be well” but rather we play an intentional part in that wellness through the creation of spaces for joy, belonging, and a vulnerability that does not have to clean itself up for white consumption. We say welcome, we say rest. You matter here. All of you.