Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, our Programs Team surveyed the mentoring and youth-serving network to identify their most urgent needs. Based on their feedback, we offered a Forum on Mentoring Relationships this fall that focused on the critical issues of Trauma, Healing & Equity. We brought in the highly acclaimed researcher Dr. Wizdom Powell as our keynote speaker, featured an intergenerational discussion with youth and elders, and offered eight workshops led by experts and experienced practitioners that covered a wide spectrum of related topics.
Dr. Powell began her address by drawing a parallel between the unseen suffering of many youth and Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” This classic short story focuses on a seemingly idyllic society whose happiness is predicated on the suffering of a single child. After bringing attention to the individuals who choose to leave this society rather than continue to ignore the open secret of suffering, Dr. Powell invited the audience to “think about all of the open secrets, the shadow places that have been excavated in this moment we find ourselves in now, particularly, the bones in our basement represented by racism.”
Dr. Powell discussed emerging challenges and opportunities for mentoring youth in the midst of COVID-19, as well as during this period of heightened racial unrest. Dr. Powell brought her expertise on working with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and shared her research on trauma in the community of young people. “We know that we need to illuminate racism in order to eliminate it,” argued Dr. Powell, noting that it is only by focusing on and being mindful of racism that trauma-informed and healing-centered engagement can occur.
Dr. Powell ended her address with a call to action: “What we need the most is mentoring relationships that foster collective resilience and create nurturing structures where we can reimagine joy, meaning-making, and radical healing.”