June 5, 2020
For many of us, the purpose behind why we do this work in education and youth development is deeply rooted in the existence of and our personal experiences with systemic racism. We fight for just outcomes and equitable opportunities in a system that fails to serve black and brown communities and youth fairly.

The essence of DCAN’s mission is rooted in access and attainment of educational opportunities for Detroit students. We, like many of you, are driven to create equity and remove barriers in supporting our students with their journey. Though our focus is on Detroit students, we understand the positions of black students alike across the nation. Our work alone however will not end the racial injustices and inequities in this country. It will give our resilient students and families more tools to navigate an unjust society.

I took on the responsibility of my role at DCAN as Strategy Director with a profound respect for the work taking place not only for Detroit students, but for my city. Given my experience, it is crucial that I hone in on my community organizing roots to make sure the voices on the ground are heard at the tables where decisions are made. As a black leader, not only in education, but from the ‘not so pretty’ parts of Detroit, I’m far too familiar with my own experiences with systemic racism, the very system that has shaped our “whys.” With everything our students are experiencing right now, I haven’t slept. I haven’t sorted out how I feel. To some extent, I don’t know how to feel. But it is important that I take this moment to speak candidly about where we are as it relates to our students...

The protests taking place globally, though fueled by police brutality, are only the tip of the iceberg to the racial disparities, harassment and abuse of power over centuries that contribute to the inhumane killings that happen in this country. Black people are under-resourced, under-valued and over-policed, which gravely affects our students and their futures. Coupled with a global pandemic, yet another layer is added to their already heavy shoulders in navigating their intended paths. 

There is no data that can draw anyone closer to what it truly means to maintain faith in the dream – a dream where education changes circumstances with the hopes race becomes a smaller factor in everyday living. It is absurd that in 2020 we are still having these conversations. That it has to come to this for people to even pretend to hear what we’ve been saying and fighting for. So I understand the overwhelming nature of the emotions that are spilling over as we process this as a community. We are mentally and physically exhausted, but are not defeated. 

We have an obligation to represent, support and protect our students and families. We also have an obligation to listen to their voices, those spoken outright and silent. And right now youth are speaking up, even those dismissing the realities they are facing because they are numb. They are telling and showing us what they need. We have to pay attention! With that, we stand firmly in support of #BlackLivesMatter, while fighting daily against the injustices that have affected their past, presents and futures. 

We all have a role to play in that fight: 
“...life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% of how we react.”
–Charles R. Swindoll

We encourage you to remember to use your why and positions of influence to press forward our students are depending on us to do so. The cyclical nature of these occurrences and our work has shown us that silence and lack of action are not an option. We must speak and act to create the change needed, not only in education but in all systems that affect the equitable advancement of those we serve.

Wishing you courage through solidarity and clarity in purpose as we move forward this changing world. 

In solidarity,

Onjila Odeneal, Acting Executive Director
Detroit College Access Network

With full support from the DCAN Team
Take Action: Affect Change
Please take action. The resources below are a good starting place to understand the work that must be done.
This newsletter is intentionally created in black in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter.