A youth programme CEO speaks up on why Black Lives Matter

A CEO of a mentoring and youth engagement programme spoke up about the importance of factoring in race and culture when developing BAME youth.

Elaine Thomas, 41, is the black founder of The Mentoring Lab, where 80% of their mentoring team is BAME and aim to inspire hope in BAME youth.

The death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man whose death by police brutality in the USA on May 25 led to protests, came as no surprise to Miss Thomas.

Read more here https://www.swlondoner.co.uk/a-youth-programme-ceo-speaks-up-on-why-black-lives-matter/

MENTORING WITH A BROKEN HEART

Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. These are just three names and three lives from another country where their story has ended in a veil of evil and injustice that has not just impacted me, but millions of people across the globe.  As racial prejudice and weaponised whiteness has been digitised and publicised on a global scale, it’s important to recognise that racism is not a new thing – but it is being filmed. ​​​
I have cried over each story as thousands of hearts break and mourn for both loss and injustice. It’s difficult to not be swallowed by the frustration and the emotions that roll over from events like these. And it’s important to remember that similar injustices take place in my own city. 

As a white man, I will never fully grasp the pain or the trauma that my coworkers, boss, course mates, friends, mentees or partner experiences every time the news shows another black individual that is yet again a victim of white prejudice. And so the challenge remains; how, then, can I – a white man who is still understanding and learning about the privilege that my skin colour dictates – mentor the young people of London with a broken heart? When the issue of racism is so big, so convoluted, so marred in pain and blood, how can I use my whiteness to lift up others?

Something that Elaine exemplifies, is compassion. I’m not perfect, I am still learning – but each time I’m on the phone with Elaine, I’m met with a genuine compassion, even when she may be hurting herself. Compassion runs through the veins of The Mentoring Lab, and it’s through the lens of empathy that I am able to recognise the trauma that young people suffer when news and events such as the recent abominable acts that have gone viral.

If you haven’t gathered yet, I can get emotional. But I’ve learnt that emotions and broken hearts don’t hinder the capacity to mentor – rather they inform the need for it. In other words, I believe that mentoring from a place of broken heartedness, from a place of compassion, from a place of passion is what fuels and drives the practice of mentoring. I believe that the key to see these racial injustices eradicated is found in who we raise, and how we raise them. The answer is in us, the young people we serve, and the vision of change that we will bring together. A broken heart informs us of the world that we want to see – a world we need to see.

As fire ignites our bones, as compassion runs through our veins, as our expertise weaves into the stories of the rising generations, I believe that together we are writing a chapter in history that will be so profound and monumental that no one will see it coming.
No one, but the mentors with a broken heart.

NO PRESSURE

My name is Scott and I am one of the expert youth mentors at The Mentoring Lab.

​We have just finished our two week long GAMETIME online programme – and it was amazing! I had the privilege to run the public speaking workshop, which if I’m honest – was a little nerve wracking! When I did the video promotion for it, I had to do at least 50 takes in different rooms in my house before I was happy with it. Originally, the public speaking workshops were going to be for just the first week. Myself and Hara, one of our incredible volunteers, weren’t exactly sure what to expect, especially for our first time at doing an online workshop – but we were confident and ready to have fun!

Our worries evaporated as soon as the first young person joined the call – it was awesome! It was great to connect with young people from across London, and it was an incredible opportunity to provide some fun and inspiration in the middle of what is quite a dark and uncertain time.

A challenge for the young people that ran throughout the session was to write a seven-minute speech to change the world – no pressure! But each and every young person came up with profound topics, smashing my expectations. The topics ranged from mutual respect, to discrimination, to even the environment. I came away from the sessions inspired by the vision of the young people, and their eagerness to not just learn, but to change the world.

After talking with some of the team, we extended the public speaking workshops for the next week – which wasn’t something I was expecting! It was great that the young people were engaging, and there was a buzz about the workshops on social media, but that wasn’t the big thing. The big thing was found in the feedback. The young people explained that they felt less anxious about their current situation, they were more prepared for when they may speak in public and more confident in themselves.

We recorded the speeches in the final session, and one of the young people turned her speech into a rap – which blew me away! It was a raw, powerful message about discrimination, and that was the ‘lightbulb’ moment for me. I wasn’t just putting on a workshop for young people, but I was playing a part in helping the world changers of today to find their voice.

And let me tell you – when they decide to use it, the world won’t be the same!