As we process the unconscionable yet again and again, we know with clarity of hearts and minds that what we are facing is an ongoing and relentless public health crisis of gun violence and toxic masculinity that cannot continue. We must reimagine, advocate for and support our next generation of leaders and change-makers as they fight to bring to life a different way of being – a vision of radical safety grounded in  hope .

As a leader in the girl-serving sector, we feel the urgency and heartbreak of the day. How could we not? How do we continue to go on with our days and our work in this relentless horror? And yet – it is in this work that we can and do find hope. We find how to keep going. In our ground-breaking  Uniting Isolated Voices Report , a radical vision of safety was developed by girls  for girls . What we at AFG found deeply moving was that their definition of radical safety was not necessarily grounded in the simplistic idea of an  absence of violence  – they defined safety as a  rich and profound presence of healthy relationships, bodily autonomy and a sense of belonging.

As we think of this ask of us from those we serve, we wanted to share some thoughts on how we might model the behavior of their radical vision as we grapple with what to do today:

Give your team time to restore and heal.  In the last two weeks there have been three mass shootings (more since this piece was first shared): a racially motivated hate crime in  Buffalo, New York  that murdered 10 majority Black people, a racially motivated hate crime in  Orange County, California  that murdered 1 and injured 5 Taiwanese churchgoers, and on Monday a gunman massacred 19 children and two teachers in  Uvalde Texas , the majority of whom were Latinx children.  This requires us to pause.  We must let ourselves and our loved ones feel and embody what is happening.

300,000 girls and gender expansive youth walk through our collective doors every day to learn, build healthy relationships and find safety in the chaos. It is our responsibility to show up for them, which means we need to take time and give time to mourn, grieve and feel the pain so that we can support our youth and children as they do the same.

We know many are struggling to find the words to talk to the children in their lives about what is happening and struggling to help them continue to walk through school halls, grocery aisles and church doors without paralyzing fear. This brings us back to  reclaiming bodily autonomy,  while also acknowledging that the systems we live in impact our ability to walk in this world – in our bodies– safely. While we cannot make these conversations easier, we can offer some resources that you can share with your communities and use yourselves:

Share and make space for the big feelings –  name trauma so that it can be felt.

Nine tips for talking to kids about trauma

Five tips for talking with kids about what is going on in the world

How to help kids get through unspeakable horror

Talk about race when you talk about what is happening –  name the systems  that are causing harm.

16 ways to help children become thoughtful, informed, and BRAVE about race

Talking to your kids about racism

How to talk honestly with children about racism

Get informed about gun control and action that you can take today.

Gun violence must stop. Here’s what we can do to prevent more deaths

It ends with us: A plan to reimagine public safety

The State of America’s Children® 2021: Gun Violence

Belonging  is more than just a feeling – but  it starts with feeling safe – radically safe . It starts with being seen. And even though  belonging  can feel impossible to conceptualize in a world where you cannot even take a safe breath in a classroom – belonging is the hope. It is why we do this work.

We invite you to hold close the hope of our girls during these difficult times – the hope of healthy relationships, body autonomy and true belonging.

May their hope guide our labor.

The AFG Team