Dontae’s Personal Statement

A statement from one of our founders

dontae headshot photo

I could’ve been a victim of a murderous cop, however, I have been a victim of police brutality.  As a young black man reared in public systems, some would say I was a victim numerous times.  The question was – a victim of what?  A victim of pigmentation or a victim of poor parenting?  It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that my mother didn’t have access to the tools that she needed to navigate an American society that she was not wholly considered a part of, and provide support and guidance to my siblings and I.  The struggle consumed her life.  From a statistical standpoint, it should’ve consumed mine too.  Thankfully I was fortunate enough to have people come into my life over the years who believed in me. White people, black people, and an array of shades in between.  They saw a potential in me that I didn’t even see in myself.  

As I matured, I realized that radical change was necessary in order to improve the lives and outcomes of my brothers and sisters being raised in public systems, especially those of color.  I wanted to initiate change.  I reached out to one of my Mentors and began developing the framework for a non profit that would significantly change the way that services are afforded youth raised in public systems. To ensure that we could fully support our youth, I reached out to a diverse group of local professionals and resource providers who were connected to our target population as well, garnering their support and inviting them to join the cause.  Three years later, we continue to support and transform the lives of these often forgotten youth, focusing on their individual voices and aspirations. We have made a lot of progress and so have our youth. Your support of our mission will ensure that our progress will not be lost and that we can continue connecting with former foster youth and providing them a lifelong connection. 

Although the underpinning tenets of racism in American culture aren’t going to disappear overnight, people are changing.  Society has come a long way.  It’s deep rooted systems change that needs to be addressed.  While RTB is intentional in providing our youth an accurate portrayal of American society, and providing them with real world tools on how to navigate a framework that doesn’t always include them, we also know things can’t improve without them demanding to be included.  Self advocacy is paramount to our mission.  Everyone must have a voice.  Experience has taught us that when a young person feels they have a voice – it leads to feelings of acceptance and belonging – which, in turn, are the building blocks of success. 

Take a look at what we’re doing.  And if nothing else, know that it couldn’t have been done alone.  As the African proverb says, “It takes a village”.  

And as yet another equally thought provoking proverb says, “Alone we go fast, but together we go far.” 

Dontae Lartigue