I am attending an SEL convening in the beautiful city of Tamaya (Santa Ana), New Mexico. As I sit and listen to speech after speech on the need for students to find their voices, the victimization of black and brown women and the lack of sensitivity towards the LBGTQ+ communities, there is a voice that is eerily absent from the space.

It is a voice that for a long time I did not even recognize was missing from the public square of conversation. Perhaps it is because my husband has a constant audience with me and I have the privilege of navigating with him along his social-emotional journey. Perhaps it is because I still get to hear the broken speech of my daddy who struggles to piece together his thoughts scattered by the strokes that have assaulted his brain. Or maybe it is because I can still hear the echo of my grandaddy’s voice from beyond his final resting place speaking his truth in my ear as I replay in my mind the countless stories of his journey in what he called, “a white man’s world”.

But today, I heard the void.

Both the general sessions and breakouts were facilitated mainly by women and white men. There were a number of wonderful speakers that put forth great ideas and best practices for helping students navigate their social-emotional journies. However, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Where are the brothers?”

Where are the black men to speak on their social-emotional journies? To speak their truths into the space and demand a voice in the public square of conversation? Where were the fathers, the teachers, the preachers, the community leaders of color to talk about how, as black men, they traverse the trauma of childhood and assume the role of manhood in a society that still considers them second and third-class citizens? How they often times grow up on their own, never having a father to raise them up or provide the blueprint to manhood?

Then I realized something. To allow their voice is to admit our vice. To provide them a platform is to call out our plagiarism of history. It is easier to silence the black man than to support him. Easier to ignore him than to invite him in and be forced to face the truth about ourselves.

The deeper, even scarier truth is that what I saw in our conference is an extension of what is happening in our homes. Our black and brown boys have been silenced; their needs largely ignored and their attempts to be heard–to be acknowledged as fellow human beings–criminalized.

As I sat and watched my husband listen to speech after speech, I saw the pain on his face as he felt completely ignored in the conversation. Not one session focused on black men. Ours was the only grant out of 105 that addressed the specific needs of black boys’ social-emotional learning. He finally sent me a text, “They still don’t see me.”

To my black and brown boys, I see you.

And I love you.

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