Reclaiming Our Humanity

Children of color are sacred, possessing intellect, curiosity, innovation, and creativity. However, they navigate a world that dehumanizes them in most of the spaces they occupy. Society questions their innocence and hampers their potential simply because they exist.

Forward Promise’s Dehumanization Framework identifies dehumanization as the foundation for systemic racism, racial trauma, and toxic stress for people of color in both historical and contemporary contexts. This seminal work both identifies dehumanization as the foundation for racism and advances solutions for reclaiming our humanity using healing practices rooted in culture.

Heal, Grow, Thrive! and Village Raising

We fight to protect young people of color from the narratives and dehumanizing actions that make their worlds dangerous and limit the opportunities and resources they deserve. They deserve the tools that help them to stand in their power and reject the ways in which society devalues them. They deserve the space to chart their own paths without being stigmatized or marginalized. And they absolutely deserve the chance to fearlessly pursue their dreams. We want to see them thrive!

Heal, Grow, Thrive!

Thriving is our highest hope for young people of color and the villages (communities) that nurture them. Forward Promise understands and asserts that “thriving” is not a destination but a continuous response to healing and growing. Healing, growing, and thriving may take place simultaneously and to varying degrees.

Village Raising

Village Raising advocates for the fertilization of healthy villages where culture is the driving force for supporting the growth and well-being of the community. Through village raising, we seek both individual and structural solutions to the issues that undermine healing, growing, and thriving.

What Do We Mean by "Heal, Grow, Thrive?"


Healing is recognizing trauma.

Young people of color are deserving of health. When their traumas are not addressed, their health decreases. Healing occurs when they are provided with safe spaces to unpack their experiences and understand that their traumas are not their fault.


Growing is rejecting dehumanizing narratives.

Young people of color grow when they increase their knowledge about their histories and why the problems of dehumanization and racism exist. Armed with truthful information, they are better able to reject harmful narratives about themselves. This self-awareness helps them to harness their power in all areas of their lives and refrain from internalizing racial trauma and toxic stress.


Thriving is expanding personal health into community health.

As young people resist harmful narratives and actions, tell their own stories, and experience wellness by standing in their power, they turn their attention to empowering their community to do the same.

Humanity-affirming Strategies

The humanity of youth of color and their communities is not up for debate. Too often, they are defined by their traumas rather than their assets and contributions to society. Forward Promise has identified three humanity-affirming strategies that can influence practice and policy to create healthy villages.

New Narratives

Dehumanization begins with a narrative that people of color are less than human and undeserving of basic human dignities. We must share accurate, new narratives that highlight the innate worth, beauty, and complexity of people of color while acknowledging their vulnerabilities. Moreover, we must also empower young people to tell their own stories in order to release negative emotions and reject negative narratives.

Safe and Supportive Spaces

Young people deserve the freedom to grow up in safe and supportive spaces that help them to name and navigate the complexities of coming of age in a society that neither affirms nor recognizes their full humanity. These spaces reflect their cultures, honor their histories, and serve their need for connection, protection, affection, and redirection.

Systems Change

Child welfare, education, housing, and juvenile justice systems need an overhaul if they are to be stripped of dehumanization. Making space for communities of color to be heard during program and policy development is critical.