The death of George Floyd and the ongoing protests happening across the nation are deeply felt by the youth and young adults in our Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR) facilities. Many youth are feeling the pain of loss, years of systemic racism and a strong desire to do something about it.
The youth at Oakridge Community Facility are leading group discussions on racism, social injustice, lived experience and how these demonstrations are impacting them. Rashad Norris contracts with JR to support youth self-advocacy work. He is visiting youth at Oakridge weekly to facilitate these youth-led discussions and will begin visiting Touchstone Community facility soon.
Similar conversations are also happening at Woodinville Community facility. Staff have hosted group forums inviting youth to share their thoughts and feelings on the current climate and how they are coping. Administrator Jeremy Ludwig said, “Most of our residents have asked for more information on what is happening than anything else.” Following these conversations, several youth approached staff looking for ways to add their voices to the demonstrations. They came up with a plan to create posters that honor different perspectives.
“We bought poster board, paint and some posts and they made about 10 signs. Every young man at Woodinville created a sign that they have posted in their room. Many of them made an extra sign to post in the driveway as their way of showing protest support,” said Jeremy. Youth also made additional posters for Juneteenth, which were posted throughout the facility.
For some of these youth, channeling feelings of dislike for police into statements about equality and supporting the Black community has helped them focus on the importance of this moment. Jeremy added, “We also discussed how these signs will serve as reminders to always remain open to change – knowing this process won’t ever really end, but it will continue to progress.”