A MESSAGE FROM SUSAN L. TAYLOR
No more broken promises to our children! Not as multitudes of our fragile young ones are suffering the harms of poverty—their wounds evident and bleeding on our watch. We privileged ones are the cure. And we have everything we need—except each other! The National CARES Mentoring Movement has a deliberate and proven plan.
CARES is a pioneering, community-mobilization initiative dedicated to healing the effects of centuries of structural disparities that are destroying multitudes of Black children’s lives. Mentoring works miracles. We meet our mandate to break the cycle of generational Black poverty by building a bridge to healing and wellness in mind, body, spirit and community in those places where Black children are losing ground. Across the nation, CARES recruits, trains and places caring, culturally competent mentors in schools and youth-support organizations desperate for Black volunteers.
Among the hundreds of thousands we serve are Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the U.S. Dream Academy. Deepening our commitment to elevate young lives, we have been building our own transformational programs for young people in which a few mentors are trained and provided with a curriculum and protocol they use to undergird entire school populations.
What I have witnessed and learned over the decades leading Essence and now with boots on the ground in the 58 cities where CARES has local affiliates, is that while challenges are fact of life for everyone, our children living in poverty are the most defenseless ones in this land of plenty. They are living in a world of structural neglect and disparities far beyond our view—a world that would cause most adults to whither. It’s a world of isolation, marginalization, hunger, homelessness, surrounded by unrelenting violence, gravely ill-equipped health services and inequitable academic systems that too often shred the lives they were created to nourish.
I was stunned to learn that extreme poverty is defined by the U.S Census Bureau as a yearly household income of $12,129 or less for a family of four—with two related children, inane metrics that maintain generational poverty and make the poor vulnerable to illegal way of supporting themselves and their families. Poverty is the root of the despair upending our struggling families, fractured by centuries of enslavement, dehumanizing beliefs, laws, policies and practices that have led to today’s devastating rates of mass incarceration, sweeping parents away from their children and tearing Black families and communities asunder. Already poverty-stricken families have been rendered ever-more vulnerable, their defenseless children’s hopes and dreams derailed. Society has all but written them off. With the caring, courageous people who make up CARES Affiliates, we are writing them in.
I often remind people that this is not the roughest side of the mountain we have traversed. And like our foreparents who envisioned our success, we are holding fast to big dreams for our children and community. At CARES we are planning carefully and strategically—while moving with all deliberate speed for the sake of our young. The village is on fire! We privileged, able ones are the healing waters our struggling children and families must have to succeed.
For the children,
Susan L. Taylor, Founder and CEO
National CARES Mentoring Movement
Editor-in-Chief Emerita, Essence Magazine