Meet Nikebia, Our Newest Intern: Centering, not Silencing

Starting college four years ago, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Then, my freshman year, I enrolled in an introductory social work class. Later, after watching the documentary, “The Mask You Live In” I knew I wanted to focus my work on helping youth. Now, beginning an internship at Michigan’s Children, I’m excited to see and take part in the ways that advocacy groups protect and center children and families and their experiences.

I grew up in Detroit Public Schools, and it’s certainly affected the way I view education and children’s rights. My last two years of high school, the Flint Water Crisis and the working and learning conditions of DPS schools both became national news and spurred action. Both situations were particularly impactful for children, and across the state, children my age and younger were inspiring me. We were taking the lead, speaking out, and refusing to be overlooked. I didn’t realize at the time how influential this ongoing experience would be.

Now, as a BASW student, I frequently find myself circling back to discussions, policies, and engagement opportunities that are youth focused. With traditions that dictate children should be seen and not heard, it is important to me, and everyone at Michigan’s Children, to work against the suppression of children’s voices.

With the ever-changing reality that is COVID-19, everyday ingrained inequalities and inequities of our society are further exposed. The disparities in our education system in particular have been a critical point of discussion. For example, how are different children and families affected by online learning versus face-to-face learning? What potential gaps may be emerging or growing as a result?

The spotlight that the current pandemic has placed on unjust policies will hopefully push us forward as a collective to ensure the safety and success of all children, in the education arena and beyond.

Nikebia Brown-Joseph is an intern at Michigan’s Children