David Johns: Statement on Nigel Shelby Press Conference
My name is David Johns and I am honored to lead the work of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC). NBJC is the nation’s only civil rights organization focused on the intersections of racial justice and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) equality.
According to the Human Rights Campaign nearly 80% of LGBTQ/SGL teens report feeling depressed. Data suggests that LGBTQ/SGL youth experience violence and bullying nearly twice as much as children who are or are presumed to be heterosexual. 74% of LGBTQ/SGL students report feeling unsafe, bullied, and harassed in schools throughout the country according to GLSEN. LGBTQ/SGL students are five times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers.
Imagine being a racial and sexual “minority” student in public schools today. All of the data tells us that hate crimes are on the rise and that bullying is rampant in our schools but too often we push past these statistics and ignore the stories behind them. Stories of children who deserve the love, support, and protection needed to figure out who you are and how you want to show up in the world.
Black children deserve to grow up too, all of them! The fact that I have to say that makes my stomach turn and my head throb. But the sad reality is that we have so much more work to do to ensure that people acknowledge that all Black children deserve to thrive. Beyond acknowledging this fact, we also must do the work required to end bullying, harassment, and abuse in schools.
In response to the unique challenges Black LGBTQ/SGL students face we often tell them to hold on. We tell them that “it will get better.” However, unless we actively work to increase support for and to remove the stigma surrounding mental health, things will not change. Unless we pass legislation and provide trainings and supports to increase cultural competence and intercultural awareness for adults working with children, youth, and young adults, it will not get better.
In honor of Nigel Shelby and so many other children whose stories we may never know we need to act urgently to pass legislation, improve sex education, and equip educators with the skills needed to support the learning and development of all students in classrooms and schools that are safe, inclusive, and supportive.
We look forward to ensuring that this important work happens in honor of our brother Nigel Shelby.