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09.11.2019

Why I Want to Change Lives

By Bradley Loetzke, Treehouse Senior Education Specialist

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Come along through the journey of realization with me and how I found my WHY.

The journey started in Tacoma, where I was raised. Growing up in a single-parent household with a mother who had immigrated to the United States from Germany, we ended up moving often trying to find the cheapest rent. In Tacoma, that usually meant the worst neighborhoods. My father was around when he could be, but from our conversations about his struggles with being in foster care his entire childhood, it was apparent he had trouble committing to the responsibility of fatherhood. Without an example of what a father figure looked like, my dad left it up to my mom to fill the void.

One time, my father picked me up for lunch in the third grade. While we were eating—a delicious burger filling my mouth—he handed me a gift. When I opened it, I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see a new sweater with a cool panther on the front. Little did I know—and would soon find out—the symbol had meaning when I tried to wear it to school.

My mother stopped me at the door and said: “Your sweater says Black Panthers. Take it off.” Later, I would learn they were a militant group fighting for equal rights of African Americans.

To this point, you might have figured out I was being raised by a white mother with an African American father who was periodically around. When my father was present, he informed me about the African American struggles, so much so that I started to resent my mother at an early age.

One day during fourth grade, my mother said: “Your teacher called. Why didn’t you tell me about parent-teacher conferences?” I looked my mother in the eye and said: “I didn’t tell you about parent-teacher conferences because you’re white.” During that moment my mother was forced to have our first-ever conversation about race. She simply told me with tears in her eyes: “We don’t judge a person by the color of their skin but rather by their heart and character.”

Throughout life, I would find out that everyone was not raised with the same message. When I got to Evergreen State College it was apparent as I sat in class—the only African American of mixed ethnicity. Tasked to read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” I soon found out why I was the only one in the room. For decades, governmental policies and the criminal justice system have worked hand-in-hand with social structural racism as an undertoning, leading to many people of color being disenfranchised.

The awakening I had at Evergreen, combined with my mother’s and father’s mixed messages—as well as ethnicities—led me to want to make a change in people’s lives by working against systematically orchestrated oppression.

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About the Author

Bradley Loetzke is very passionate about helping those in the Tacoma Public Schools and surrounding areas, as he is a proud product of them. He has an Associate Degree from Tacoma Community College, a Bachelor’s Degree from the Evergreen State College and a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Seattle University. He previously worked at the Upward Bound program, helping first-generation and low-income youth achieve their college dreams. As a Treehouse Education Specialist, he serves Tacoma Public Schools, Franklin Pierce School District and Bethel School District.


Comment (1)

Anne

September 20, 2019

That is a beautiful message.

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