Systemic Racism

There is a storm brewing in our nation. A flood of racism and hatred is inundating our social media timelines—forcing us to create personal “umbrellas” as shields from the daily deluge of prejudice, inequity and injustice. But through these winds of change there are glimmers of sunshine. The rain is washing away long-standing ignorance of the debilitating policies and laws that fail our communities. The relentless downpours are watering seeds of strength and strategy, and fostering coalition building of revolutionaries, organizers and freedom fighters. Young people are paying attention, taking notes and working toward a forecast of brighter days ahead.

More and more, we hear the term “systemic racism” without really understanding how it affects so many facets of our lives. What exactly is systemic racism anyway? The members of My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper Youth Council define it as: “the systemic design of public and private policies in government or private institutions to oppress a group of people through the creation of policies on the local, state and federal levels. Said policies prevent oppressed groups from accessing equal/equitable institutions such as education, healthcare, justice, housing and economic improvements.” How concerned should we be about systemic racism? The answer is: you should be very, very concerned.

That is why it has been inspiring to see so many people on the front lines participating in nonviolent demonstrations and marches, sometimes kettled into barricades or unlawfully arrested. With eyes wide open, they stand on the pulpit of progression and push forward carrying our forefathers’ spirit of freedom. Calling for reform to eradicate unjust policies and practices in criminal justice, education, immigration, gender equity, environmental justice, accessibility and LGBTQ+ rights, young people are prepared to get into what the late John Lewis called good and necessary trouble.” They are taking over the streets, bridges and highways in NYC, Kentucky, Minneapolis and across the globe.

Simply put, they are Shutting. It. Down.

The increased visibility of national and global events has helped expose systematic racism, forcing the world to take notice and stand in solidarity against it. Now is the time to amplify your voices, question the status quo and not accept the toxicity of systemic racism. Refuse to carry on with business as usual. We are all the designers of a blueprint for a better tomorrow, and we will combat the barriers of oppression that stand in the way of justice for all.

Jessice Barretto

Jessica Barreto- YPAR
Jessica Barreto is an afro latina college student at Baruch College, where she intends to finish with her bachelor’s in Public Affairs and continue to attain a Master’s in Public Administration. She is an adopted child who has been in foster care and has had many experiences good and bad with multiple child welfare agencies. As a senior in high school, she began and still works with the Intergenerational Change Initiative as a youth researcher where she can use research to advocate for the youth in her community. She aspires to open and run a nonprofit for the youth who are at risk of homelessness. She also aspires to work for the child welfare system in hopes to contribute positive change.

Chelsea Cohenco

Chelsea Cohen-MBSK
Chelsea Cohen is 17 years old and a rising senior at Great Neck North High School. Chelsea has always been interested in the law; she practically grew up watching Law and Order. Chelsea took a College Law class in 10th grade and became interested in human rights. Racial disparities within the justice system attracted her immensely but she struggled to find a way to do anything about it. When Chelsea’s guidance counselor told her about the Governor’s New York State Youth Council, she didn’t hesitate to apply. Through the State she was able to meet the members of MBSK Council. The Council has provided Chelsea with leadership and organizational skills which helped her and some friends carry out several educational gatherings, protests and vigils in response to the nation’s recent unrest.

Rayan Kouider
Rayan Kouider- MBSK
Rayan Kouider is turning 17 years old and entering 11th grade at the Michael J. Petrides School in the fall. He has always been very active in his community and enjoys giving back to New York City. He is also a member of the Governor’s New York State Youth Council. Ryan remembers a time in his life when he felt more safe living in the city, and there much less tension than there is today. “There is so much to fight for that shouldn’t have to be fought for, so I decided it was time to take a stand and help make this City better than it has ever been.” Being a part of the MBSK Youth Council has motivated Ryan to turn negativity and violence into a better future. He aspires to attend college and start his own family.

Kervens Marceus
Kervens W. Marceus - MBSK
Kervens W. Marceus is a 21-year-old freelancer photographer. With an interest in racial equality and immigration since high school, Kervens jumped at the chance when he learned about the MBSK Youth Council. The Council has provided the opportunity “for my voice to be heard and be an advocate who can ‘ring the bell’ on behalf of the voiceless.” Kervens also joined MBSK for the chance to work on his leadership skills and learn how to interact with his peers and navigate contradictory ideas. Kervens plans to join the U.S. Army to follow his passion for vehicles and to build his skills so that he can take his business to the next level. Above all, he aspires to work with Tyler Perry Studios.

Sue Najm
Sue Najm is a rising senior at Fort Hamilton High School. She’s an active advocate for social justice regarding education and youth as well as foster care while working with multiple organizations and programs. She hopes to continue writing and speaking about civil rights and youth in the future to demand change within the system.

Ebube Nwaeme
My name is Ebube Nwaeme. I am 17 years old. I currently attend the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) and I'm going into my second semester in the fall of 2020. -I found out about Mbsk in high school through the recommendation of an mentor from my after school program. I joined the council because I saw it as a platform to use my voice as a young person to effect change in my society. I also joined because I saw it as a great opportunity to participate and engaged in youth related activities. My main interest has always been to bring more awareness to the power and voice young people have in the society. I sincerely believe the days of “you are the leaders of tomorrow” are gone and the leadership should start coming to actualization NOW. I believe I’m in the right path through MBSK. -I don’t stress about my future. But I think about it from time to time. I want to do things that are based on my skills and my personality. I see myself doing to tv/radio work and also music.

Carlene Pinto
Carlene Pinto
NYC Action Lab Inc.
Carlene Pinto is a national civil rights organizer and social entrepreneur. In the last decade Carlene has championed several legislative reforms and helped countless campaigns fighting for a more just and equitable world. In 2018 Carlene founded NYC Action Lab Inc. to foster and support local grassroots efforts and organizers who seldom receive resources and their 'seat at the table'. Carlene is committed to transforming our communities through educating, organizing and mobilizing with a focus on alternatives to incarceration and sustaining critical community-based work. Before NYC Action Lab, Carlene was the federal immigration Campaign Manager for the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), which represents more than 200 organizations across NYS and prior to that served The Riverside Church and countless other institutions on the forefront of social justice and community-based campaigns/initiatives. Carlene received her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice with a minor in Disaster Relief Psychology from The State University of New York at New Paltz. As an undergraduate, she interned with the Department of Emergency Management, the American Red Cross and the United Way. She is also a lifelong member of Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority, Incorporated, a nationally recognized multicultural sorority focused on diversity, service and empowerment.

Juan Ramos
Juan Ramos
Southside United HDFC- Los Sures
Juan Ramos, a longtime nonprofit manager, coalition builder, and community leader in anti-violence, housing and human rights. Currently Juan serves as Executive Director of Southside United – Los Sures where his passion for community building and organizing allow him to expand on their housing rights advocacy, social service delivery, community food insecurity and anti-violence efforts. Juan is committed to working with men and boys in addressing men’s overall violence and wellness by challenging behaviors and norms that directly affect woman, girls and men as a whole.

Dr. Samuel Aymer
Dr. Samuel A. Aymer
Hunter College
Dr. Samuel A. Aymer is an Associate Professor at Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College, where he teaches Clinical Practice with Individuals and Families. He is also the chairperson of the clinical practice sequence. His scholarly endeavors center on the intersection of masculinity, African American men, race, trauma, intimate partner violence, fatherhood and psychotherapeutic interventions. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Aymer worked for several health, mental health, and victim assistance organizations throughout New York City. He has developed training modules, seminars and workshops designed to educate clinicians about trauma, violence, intimate partner abuse, diversity and the lived experiences of Black families affected by race-related trauma. He conducts pubic lectures on family violence, trauma, African American lifestyle issues, cross-cultural counseling and diversity.

Tevina Willis
Tevina Willis
Red Hook Initiative (RHI)
Tevina Willis is a lifelong Brooklynite, community organizer, educator and Red Hook resident. With a passion for entrepreneurship and employment advocacy, Tevina founded her own non-profit organization in 2012. Aesthetic Soul Community trains residents in community organizing and capacity building. Tevina joined RHI as a member of the first cohort of Red Hook Local Leaders, a 10-week Emergency Preparedness leadership course that prepares communities to collectively respond to emergencies. Tevina joined RHI as a staff member in 2017, and in addition to facilitating Local Leaders, she organizes and manages the online and physical community bulletin board, Red Hook Hub. Tevina continues to be passionate about helping residents become advocates for positive change and equity in their community.

Majorwayy is a blatina emcee from the lower east side( L.E.S ). She began her artistic journey at age 4 dancing ballet at the Third Street Musical School. Growing up in the L.E.S, she was involved with dance competitions and theater productions, feeding her hunger to create. Her influences include Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifa, and Missy Elliot who significantly impacted her love for Hip Hop. She can be found taking over cyphers and stages from NYC, Philly and beyond. Major Way aspires to inspire. The passion in her lyrics, and electric energy of her stage presence creates a vibe like no other. Majorwayy is a truth-spitter and go getter, and the only way to go is up.

Jare Bear
Jare Bear
Jellissa, known thru her alias Jare Bear, is a pro-black, Jamaican and Guyanese-American spoken word artist. In love with poetry from a young age, she started attending open mics in her senior year of high school as well as began attending Urban Word Workshops. She now has a group EP out on SoundCloud with Urban Word NYC called “Got Bars” and continues to write poetry. She loves exploring different poetry techniques and her work is commonly filled with metaphors and allusions. Under the guidance of influences and poets such as Roya Marsh and Shanelle Gabriel, Jellissa has been able to continuously hone her craft and grow not only as a poet but also as a spoken word artist.

Cole Edwards
Cole Edwards
Cole (aka Ice Coleyy) is a freshman at Howard University intending to study business. He loves playing basketball and listening to music. He always had a passion for writing and expresses it through poetry and music.