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Big Voices

A Black Lives Matters Series

Submitted by President & CEO, Denise Barkhurst
June 23, 2020

Today we launch our Black Lives Matter Blog Series, “Big Voices.”  This is a series of essays written by black men, women and children who are affiliated with Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas.  Our hope is to provide a platform that highlights and elevates these voices so that others can be informed by their experiences, perspectives and ideas for solutions.

I am proud and humbled to work for an organization so wholeheartedly committed to supporting families in need. For 40 years, we have been honored to serve youth and families across South Texas, but we feel that now is a time for us to speak more clearly and act more boldly. So, count on us to be more accountable and more action-oriented. Count on us to stand up taller for and with our young people – ages 5-26. Count on us to let them know how much they matter and so much more. Count on us to stand unflinchingly, against racism, bigotry and injustice. The systemic injustices that prevail over the families we serve must be continually addressed, head-on. Count on us to ensure our agency is guided by and accountable to the voices of those we serve. We will make certain our youth, families, staff, and institutional partners are part of our governing process, ensuring that our operating models are aligned with our shared values and purpose. Count on us to drive systemic conversations to serve the whole child and whole family. The young people and families we serve rely on many systems – health, housing, justice, education, and employment. These systems are complicated, inter-connected and don’t often talk to each other. We will partner with our young people, families and institutions to bridge these gaps.  And finally, count on us to build an “accountability team,” inclusive of staff representatives with a charge to ensure we fulfill our commitments, propose new obligations, and highlight concerns that must be addressed.

Our first post in the series, The Great American Paradox: Reality, Race, Relationships & Resources, is an essay written by three CEO’s from the national Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) network.  This essay was endorsed by many other local BBBS CEO’s across this network of mentoring organizations, including myself.  In it, we pledge to continue to shine a light on the practice of helping others by continuing our one to one mentoring services for every child and family who comes to us for assistance; to deliver culturally-relevant training; to have conversations at a leadership level to address implicit bias; to seek solutions to our most challenging social justice issues; to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion as we hire and partner with individuals and organizations that align with our core values; and to encourage our stakeholders to vote in support of legislation and policy that protect all our communities.

I want to specifically thank the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, Rebecca Hatter, who has been an incredible mentor and thought partner for me for many years. I borrowed many of her words from messages she communicated to her local stakeholders for this intro, and it was she who inspired the creation of this blog platform for other individuals to utilize for their words. When we moved into our new Big Brothers Big Sisters offices a few years ago we stenciled many quotes and messages on the walls, including this one: WORDS MATTER. I hope that many more people will share their important words with us in this blog series for weeks and months to come.

If you are interested in joining us in this work, please reach out to me at or at 210-382-8671.

In the coming days and weeks we will post an on-going series of essays below from youth, volunteers, board members and other BBBS stakeholders. 

Our contributor’s essays

Marcus Allen, Gale Nelson & Alicia Guevara: The Great American Paradox: Reality, Race, Relationships & Resources

Christopher Fleming: Looking for Answers

Eric Lewis: Do Not Let Ignorance Prevail

Scharlena & Eric Lewis: Perspective from a Mother of an African American Young Man

Alessandra Cannon: Sick and Tired

Michael Torres Jr.: How Can I Help?

T. Darnice Camp: What More Must We Do?