A young man told clinical therapist Marissa Snoddy recently that when she calls him a leader, she got it all wrong. “He said, ‘I just came from Juvenile Hall,’ I’m not a leader.” But, she said, “We just kept giving him love. And we said, ‘You’re courageous for showing up and being here,’” The very fact that he was there, she explained, showed he was a leader.
Snoddy related the anecdote recently for 80 people attending the Trauma and Learning Series launch led by Rising Youth for Social Equity (RYSE) Center in Richmond, Ca. The purpose of the series is to develop shared language, practices and accountability among people charged with providing services to young people so that those services are empowering and rooted in empathy, according to Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, the center’s co-founder and associate director. It’s offered five to eight times annually. The first one was held at the RYSE Center on October 20.
A licensed marriage and family therapist for the RYSE Center, Snoddy explained that the interaction occurred as part of a regular session the center holds for youth called “Breaking the Frame of Anger Management.”
Her example builds on a point made by Dhaliwal. Young people of color, she told people at the gathering, are repeatedly given the message: “There’s something wrong with you” from government institutions and social welfare agencies. Pointing to a chart on trauma and healing developed by RYSE, she said that anyone interested in promoting healing from trauma must recognize how “the jail industry, the non-profit industry and the trauma industry rely on perpetuating dehumanization.”
“Conventional social science research and evaluation too often replicate unjust and oppressive narratives and assumptions about young people of color’s capacities,” Dhaliwal explained. They do this, she said, by defining success on how well a young person complies with metrics of “individual behavior change, self-efficacy and resilience.” Instead, said Dhaliwal: “We seek to change the dominant inquiry from what’s wrong with black and brown young people in our communities to how are they making it and what feeds their hope, tenacity and ability.”
So in Snoddy’s group that examines anger, the focus is moving away from blame, and, instead, acknowledging to these young people that they have good reason to be angry. As an example, Snoddy described a young man who had been involved in a violent incident that week.
“I asked him what had happened earlier that week,” she said. The youth reported that a friend had been killed and another friend went to jail.
“Yes, you should be angry,” Snoddy told him, adding, “Well, how can you use your anger constructively?” In this case, Snoddy said, she guided him through an exercise to acknowledge the underlying grief he clearly felt.
The next session in the series at the RYSE Center is scheduled for November 16 from 10 am to 2 pm. It will focus on restorative and non-violent communication, and is open to the public.