Letters to Your Little - Bigs of Color Virtual Happy Hour
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago hosted our first Bigs of Color Virtual Happy Hour on Thursday, September 24th. It was the 3rd in our series titled "Representation" which focuses on increasing the diversity of the Bigs in our programs and gives our current Bigs a safe space to speak about issues of race and representation. Over 50 Bigs jumped on Zoom for the event and we look forward to continuing the series soon, whether that is virtually or back in person.
Special for this virtual event in the series, many Bigs shared a "Letter to their Little" which they read out loud to the group. Letters ranged in scope but all focused on what it means to be a Big of Color. We are happy to be able to share some of them below with approval from the authors.
Letters to Your Little
Big Sister Carlyn
Big Sister Alyssa
I remember the first time I realized I was the “only one” in the room. I was in third grade. I had just transferred from my predominantly Mexican catholic school in South Chicago to a new, predominantly white catholic school in Whiting, Indiana, just over the IL/IN border.
At the time I didn’t have the words to describe how I was feeling. I just knew that I always felt different. I struggled to fit in and make friends. I gravitated towards the few other brown kids at my school. Not one teacher or school/church administrator looked like me. For a while I struggled to find role models who looked like me. I struggled to appreciate the color of my skin.
Little – I promise to guide you on your journey of loving yourself and the color of your skin.
By the time I was in high school, I thought things would be different…better…and for the most part they truly were. I had never been surrounded by so much diversity in my life. Diversity in religion, skin color, cultures, thoughts, ways of life. It was some of the most growth-filled years of my life. But I still sensed something was wrong with me.
Being at a city-wide public school in Chicago we had kids from all parts of the city. What I realized is that most of these kids were from the north side. When I would tell people I was from the south side it made me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed to admit. It would take me many years to get over this feeling…to realize that the neighborhood I grew up in was beautiful and filled with so much history…to become someone who would shout loud and proud tell everyone I’m from the Southeast side.
Little - I promise to help you find ways to appreciate and love the community you come from and are a part of.
When I started applying to colleges my dream was to go to Stanford or Columbia and study engineering. I had been in Chicago my whole life and loved the idea of experiencing a completely new city filled with new people. But there were times I questioned if I could do it.
I questioned my dreams when my white math teacher asked the white kid next to me to join the math team and not me…even though I was literally getting an A+ in his class.
I questioned my dream when my white counselor asked if I could even afford to go to Columbia or Stanford if I got in early and suggested I look into local colleges…then proceeding to tell me about her son going to Harvard or MIT and asking me what my name was again as I walked out of her office at the end of our conversation….
In the end I went to Columbia and I graduated with my engineering degree.
Little – I promise to never question your dreams. I promise to always encourage you to dream bigger and to do whatever I can to help you get there. I promise to help you navigate elementary school, high school, internships, college, jobs.
Growing up is hard…and sometimes it’s harder when you're Black or Brown.
I know I can’t always be physically present and I won’t always have the right answer or any answer at all to your questions. But I promise to try my best to make things a little easier, to help you find your version of happiness, and to always be there for you to lean on.
Big Sister Ciana
A letter to my Little…
Wow Grace, we’ve officially been matched for a year. I can’t tell you what it’s meant to come to know you through this program as your Big Sister.
I remember when we first met, seeing your bright optimistic eyes, yearning for compassion, direction and connection. Little did I know, how necessary and valuable our relationship would become, for us both, in such a short time. I’d like to think our relationship blossomed so quickly after our support team revealed that I’m your third match; the only one of color. The only black woman you’ve been able to look up to.
Being your Big Sister means more than being a guiding light, ear to listen to or overall role model. It means I can walk with you through the unique journey that is ours, as young black women. It means I have the opportunity to educate you in ways other Bigs who may not share our same racial or cultural lens are able to.
Today, in the face of the trauma and just madness our community is faced with; our conversations, the moments we share and have shared: visiting the DuSable museum, discussing videos like “the look” and “the talk”– the, in your words, “silly” questions you ask about our society and why things are the way they are, means more than ever before and our bond is stronger because we’re in this and going through this together.
My hope for you is that you continue to do well in school, respect your grandmother, love yourself despite and in spite of everything happening around you and continue to grow into the beautiful, loving, black woman that you are.
Peace & Love,
Big Sister Alejandra
My Little Sister and I have been matched for 3 and a half years, and we have shared so much in that time. It feels like we have known each other forever. We’ve shared fun outings and lifetime events like my wedding and her first communion!
I am so impressed with the matching process. Maddie and I are so similar in personality and interests. We have so much in common! We also share a cultural heritage; Maddie and I are Hispanic and bilingual. We practice Spanish together. Maddie speaks Spanish to her grandparents, and I speak Spanish with my family abroad. Because I speak Spanish, I have been able to establish a close relationship with her family, and that means that we are connected and cheering Maddie together. I am so grateful for that!
In the past three years I have seen Maddie grow. I would like to share some of the things I have been privileged to witness, and they have filled my heart with hope in the future her generation will lead:
- She is capable of developing relationships with others, reciprocal relationships, she shows she care and at her young age she shows up for others.
- She is interested in the world around her. She has a drive to learn and enthusiasm to become someone who makes a difference. She is interested in politics, policy, and social justice issues. In three years, she went from talking about baby unicorns, to discussing social justice and ideas to tackle a major problem of our time.
- She identifies herself as a “high achiever”, she has goals, high goals, and she works hard to achieve them. I love seeing her drive and interest in going forward!
But outside this driven, eager-to-learn child, there is also a person filled with jokes and fun interests, and sweet drawings, and giggles, and of course sparkling things.
Love her! I love having the privilege to watch her grow, see her mind expand and her dreams develop. To think that I am a role model to her seems too much credit if one considers what an amazing child she is. I can’t wait to see what the future brings her way!
Big Brother Hugo
Hello everyone, I am Hugo. I joined BBBS in April 2020, and am the mentor of Jeremiah, a cheeky African American sixth grader who’s into rap, cars and basketball, he also dances a lot better than I do.
I’m an Asian American and an ethnic Chinese. From the start, I was very accepted, from the assistance of Rachel Hampton into the program, and my match support specialist, Tabetha Handy. I’ve learnt many times not to joke with names, but they were immensely kind and helpful, from my match experience, to understanding my personal background for a compatible match.
A lot has happened since April, and it is a frustrating time for many, especially for people of color. Through a BBBS seminar, “Learning How to Support Your Little in the Face of Racism, Implicit Bias and White Privilege”, I learnt more about racism, and was shocked by the limited available information online. Under an inclusive environment, I became more aware and acknowledged of my surroundings, especially in discussions with my “Little”. Thanks to Anna Stolz for putting these seminars together, there were also resources on LGBTQ.
Growing up outside of the United States, I often relate my youth experiences in Hong Kong with Jeremiah. Even in similar contexts, there is drastic contrast in the environment and culture. Oftentimes, Jeremiah would care little of what happened in China, or stories in the East. But overtime, I believe Jeremiah began to recognize these experiences associated with my development, which has emotional importance to me, and shaped who I am today. He would then sympathize with these events and become less aware of our differences.
Overall, I’m still very green in the organization but there is nothing other than upstanding comments for the support system of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Despite the pandemic, I am still able to involve within our community, and represent as a Big of Color. I find my experience as a Big of Color has little to do with understanding of my culture or heritage, it has much to show that we are also human, as part of a larger collective, to continue to serve the community with purpose, for a better future for our Littles.
Are you interested in joining BBBS and making a difference for a child in your community? Sign up to volunteer today.