We woke up on Nov. 9 not fully aware or willing to accept what had just happened in the country. Our morning routine was filled with sadness and confusion about what the future holds with President-elect Donald Trump.
We were also fearful for what this country will look like for the young black and brown men we work with day in and day out. But by the time we made it to our office, collectively we were feeling different.
Although this election has been a traumatic experience for many individuals throughout our country, with signs of distress noticeable all around, we still felt hopeful and inspired on our way to work.
As social workers by trade, our code of ethics and hope in humanity inspires us to continue on. Our goal as social workers is to fight for rights, stand up to injustice and lift up the voices and needs of those in crisis. That purpose will not shift, whoever holds leadership in this country.
We will continue to lift our voices when we see the narrative for our young black and brown men being framed from the lens of criminal behavior, and not from a place of healing, with little to no acknowledgement of the systemic racism and trauma that this population has been through. It is our duty as social workers to fight this fight, and we will continue to do this through our Make It Happen program.
Make It Happen is our supportive, therapeutic program for young men of color who have been directly or indirectly impacted by community violence. We will continue to believe in our participants’ desire to experience and maintain the normal, healthy mental and emotional state of being that they deserve. They are indeed vulnerable to recurrent levels of stress and trauma.
We will do this by supporting them and allowing them to process the trauma they have experienced, while also challenging them to explore what healthy black masculinity means to them and society at large.
We will continue in our efforts to provide a safe space and healing for our clients in a world that has historically not been safe for them. We will ensure that our young men who have been directly and indirectly impacted by community violence receive the care and support they deserve through our groups and individual therapy.
We will do this simply because they are human and their lives matter. We will continue to advocate for the young men we work with because many are trapped in a system that is oppressive and specifically targets young black and brown men. Our program will continue to equip our young men with the tools they need to heal from their pain.
As black male social workers, we will use our tools of formal education and the experience of the black impairment in this country to inform us in our practice. We will continue to build trust with our young black and brown men because many of the systems they are trapped in have left scars of mistrust and trauma on them and their communities.
Our mission is to remain vigilant and humble in our approach to build trust with our young men. We will also be strong advocates for our clients because we are well aware of the implications now more than ever.
Kenton Kirby has a Master’s in Social Work from New York University. He provides individual and group therapy to young men of color who have been directly and indirectly impacted by community violence.
Shawn Deverteuil is the men’s empowerment coordinator for the Make It Happen program at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center. He has a Master’s in Social Work from Adelphi University.