Since 1970, our history at The Bridge for Youth has been steeped in social justice through the activist hearts of Sister Rita Steinhagen and Sister Marlene Barghini. They didn’t run from racism, violence, exploitation and discrimination. They didn’t ignore growing numbers of unaccompanied youth on the streets. Instead, they opened The Bridge on the West Bank, one of the nation’s first shelters for runaway and homeless youth. They were activists that did more than speak about the harms of those oppressed. They took action. That was The Bridge 50 years ago. And that is the core of who we are today.
As the new Executive Director of The Bridge for Youth, here is what I have to say in light of the horrific events that have happened over the last few days. First of all, The Bridge wishes to express our deep grief over the death of George Floyd. We condemn the racism, violence and oppression that infuses our culture.
I fear that our collective voice – especially those most impacted – will be forgotten once the news feeds slow down and headlines begin to diminish. What I have to say is WE COMMIT for the long-term. As an organization, we commit to working together to end racism, violence, oppression and exploitation for young people of color and LGBTQ youth. Young people depend on us as individuals and as a community. Societal, institutional, systematic and policy change must happen for them. Of course, they are our future. But, it’s more than that – we hold their vulnerability in our hands. They are our responsibility and this opportunity for change is a gift. This change happens to be our mission at The Bridge. We work hard at it.
At The Bridge for Youth we commit to:
- Give young people safe shelter from violence in their home and in community
- Advocate for those who have temporarily lost their voice to fear, racism and bias
- Opportunity for young people to speak up against injustice and advocate for themselves and others
- End racism and violence wherever possible
I send this as a message of conviction, but also hope. Hope in our mission. And hope in our collective action.
“I refuse to accept the view that [we are] so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Martin Luther King Jr
Today, tomorrow and in the days to come, if you are a youth who needs someone to talk to or a safe place to go, The Bridge is here for you. When you can’t go home, when you feel shut out, when you just need a break, The Bridge for Youth is a safe and welcoming place that’s open and available whenever you need us—24/7/365—at no charge. Need immediate help? Crisis Line 612-377-8800 / Text4Help: 612-400-SAFE (7233)
Lisa Mears, Executive Director
The Bridge for Youth