HONOLULU (KHON2) – Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
For the month of February, as they celebrate and embrace Black History Month, they are highlighting the programs in place that shine light on their Black participants and staff by honoring their lived experiences and educating all of their participants and staff about how to be an effective ally.
Moon Yun Pellerin with Best Buddies said their programs empower the abilities of people with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communication skills, and feel valued by society.
“Our Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion has created vital and engaging programming for Black History Month and beyond,” said Pellerin. “Efforts include the creation of a fund specifically to support inclusive programming in public schools and HBCU’s, as well as Black participants with and without disabilities, and Black staff and those who would like to join our staff.”
Jeremiah Sykes, 15, is an African American student at Mililani High School who has IDD. He got introduced by his teacher to Best Buddies and said it’s been fun.
“Talk to people. I get to see my buddies,” said Sykes. “I like to play and eat a lot. Hannah (my best buddy) is nice and beautiful. She takes me on walks and stuff.”
Currently, only three percent of their participants identify themselves as Black. Pellerin said their numbers are slightly higher than that of Black Hawaii residents.
“It’s hard sometimes (being both Black and disabled) because I can’t always do what other people can,” said Sykes.
Pellerin said they have a National Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion who creates and leads roundtables, webinars, and discussions highlighting different races and ethnic populations, as well as the LGBTQIA+ population.
“We also support our African American staff as well as our Black participants by educating our entire staff about the lived experience of the Black community as well as the immense contributions to the fabric of American society and culture,” said Pellerin.
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For more information about how to get involved with Best Buddies in Hawaii head to their website.