A Statement from SMYAL in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

The events of the past few weeks have been a stark reminder of the pain, discrimination, and death that Black people have faced since the founding of this country. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless known and unknown Black people are not isolated cases of police violence. The pain our community feels now is not unfamiliar.  As someone whose family history traces back to slavery, the generations of pain are real.

SMYAL condemns the excessive use of force employed by the police towards peaceful protesters in Washington, DC and across the country, and we stand with the Black Lives Matter movement.  We support the growing calls to divest from police forces which have repeatedly victimized Black people, including queer and trans Black people, and instead invest in building stronger communities.  We support working with local leaders to provide access to affordable housing, physical and mental health care, safe schools, and other community-based initiatives which are evidence-based solutions that truly promote the safety and well-being of Black communities.

In addition to standing in solidarity with these calls, SMYAL is actively examining our current relationship with the Metropolitan Police Department and will be investing in de-escalation training for our staff so that calling the police remains a last resort in our youth centers.

We know that many of the organizers of the recent Black Lives Matter protests are young people and we encourage and uplift them in making their voices heard. At SMYAL, we seek to ensure that queer and trans youth have the space, support, and tools they need to heal and create positive change. We want our young people to know that we see them, we hear them, and we will continue to support the work they do in advocating for the safety and equity of their communities. Through SMYAL’s housing, drop-in, leadership, and a variety of other programs, we aim to continue to uplift, amplify, and center the voices of Black queer and trans youth throughout the DMV area.

Our hope is that by doubling down on our mission to empower young people, we will help create a society where Black people don’t have to ask for solidarity just to stay alive, a society in which our lives matter.

Black Lives Matter.

In direct response to collective actions in the face of police brutality, we are providing support spaces for Black queer and trans youth. Additionally, we are providing spaces for non-Black youth of color and white youth who want to stand in solidarity and support their Black peers. Please contact us at [email protected] for additional information.

The current system doesn’t protect and serve our Black communities. We hope you’ll join us in helping our youth to change it. 

For youth who are in need of support right now, SMYAL is here for you. We continue to offer daily support spaces for queer and trans youth. You can learn more here.

In Solidarity and Strength,

Sultan Shakir
Executive Director

*I appreciate and honor the contributions from the SMYAL staff and youth fellows in the writing of this statement.