By Nadia Khasawneh & María de los Ángeles Corral, Children’s Health Fund

Scroll down for the full written version of this Love Letter to Black Children.

Children need consistent, loving messages affirming their beauty, their potential, and their worth to know what is possible for them and to fully believe in their innate value. This can be especially true for Black children, who are less likely to see positive, uplifting messages about themselves and their communities in mainstream culture.

With the news being dominated by stories of how Black Americans are being harmed — particularly through acts of anti-Black violence and disproportionate deaths from COVID-19 — we were inspired to write a Love Letter to Black Children. It’s a message about love, worth, and power that we want Black children and young people to hear. At Children’s Health Fund, we are passionate about children’s health, and we know that these kinds of messages are essential to children’s wellbeing.

If you are a caregiver, educator, or someone with young people in your life, we hope you share this piece with them. For everyone else, we hope it touches you and moves you to action.

Dear Black Children:

I want you to know how much you are loved.

Over the past year, and probably before that, you have watched or heard of harm against people who look like you and the people you love. Maybe you’ve heard the names George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Elijah McClain, Jacob Blake. Maybe you’ve heard adults in your lives talking about these people and the news, and have sensed them feeling upset and scared. You might feel afraid for yourself, your parents and loved ones, and your friends.

As adults in your lives, we desperately want to protect you from fear and harm. And through the pain and scary things you may be hearing and learning, there are things I want you to remember and hold in your hearts, deep inside.

I want you to remember what you deserve: to play, learn, be safe, and be young. You were born to be joyful, full of laughter, and carefree. You deserve to be silly and happy, to dance and to laugh until your cheeks and your stomach hurt. To use your imagination and dream gigantic dreams. To know that this world is all yours too.

But we know that the world can be scary. It may even make you feel unsure about who you are, if you belong, and if there is a place for you.

There are times when living as a Black person in America will be hard, and life will feel so heavy. You will hear things that will cut like a knife, whose pain will linger long after the words have faded. You will learn realities of hatred and racism that will try to steal your joy and the preciousness of your childhood, that will make you feel unsafe and unwanted. They may even make you question your worth and everything you deserve. But even in those hard times, you have to remember that the brutality and lies against you and your community are not a reflection of you.

You do not have to transform or change to become more “acceptable” to anyone, or to end racism, violence, and oppression. You can cry or scream, be angry or sad. You’re allowed to feel anything and be fully human. You don’t have to always be strong or absorb the hurt and the pain being put on you.

You must remember that there is something so unique and special within you that only you bring to the world. You are irreplaceable and valuable, just by existing, however you exist. You are needed in this world.

When you look in the mirror, remember that every part of you is beautiful and worthy.

You, your body, your mind, and your voice deserve respect from everyone you meet, even if the person is older than you or in charge: your teachers, doctors, friends, your family, and strangers.

You deserve to be heard and listened to. Your voice is powerful. You can use it to express your thoughts and view of the world, which is yours alone. You can use it to stand up for yourself and others. It can bring joy and happiness to those you love. It can change the world.

Throughout history and today, your community has created world-changing leaders, thinkers, creators, artists, and revolutionaries. You carry within you this same brilliance, love, and power. No one can take this away.

I want to keep you safe from pain. But I know to truly protect and care for you, I must also be honest.

There may be more tragedy, but we will continue to fight for peace, equality, and justice. Although your community has been through so much already, you have still thrived. And you will continue to do so.

You owe the world nothing but your gifts and your unique purpose.

There is a family, a community of people who love you. We celebrate and honor you. We stand with you. We see beauty and promise in everything about you. And millions of people have marched in the streets because they do too.

When you feel alone, know that we are here, even if you don’t see us or know us.

We will be here to fight for you, and to heal with you.

All of it is for you.

Through advocacy, a national network of health centers & a school-based program, we work towards a future where all children get the care & support they need