Local Youth Become Journalists With American Teenager Project

By Luis Cubas

Robin Bowman, a New York-based photojournalist, set out on a quest in 2001 to capture and narrate the lives of teenagers all over the United States. She spent five years on the road, interviewing and photographing over 400 young people from different backgrounds and communities. The portraits and interviews are compiled in her award-winning book, It’s Complicated: The American Teenager (Umbrage, 2007).

After this experience, Bowman decided to share the goal of The American Teenager with young people and teach them to take on the same process in their own communities, in the hopes that they would find their voices and make stronger connections with other young people from backgrounds both similar to and different from their own. With the help of Julia Hollinger, a high school history teacher in Richmond, Bowman started The American Teenager Project in 2011.

“I was inspired to keep that vision going, of telling stories and actually wanting to teach young people how to do what [Bowman] had done,” says Hollinger.

Bowman and Hollinger kicked off The American Teenager Project in the city of Richmond and its nearby communities. The program began with the recruitment of 20 journalists from local high schools including Richmond High, Making Waves Academy, Kennedy High, El Cerrito High, and Leadership Public School.

The process began with workshops and training for the 20 journalists. After the training, the students were equipped with cameras and recorders. They set out on a mission to tell the stories of other teenagers living in their communities.

“At first I was a little hesitant. I didn’t know what kinds of people I would meet,” says Esmeralda Flores, one of the students. “I wasn’t expecting it to have an effect on me the way that it did.”

“I learned a lot about my neighborhood,” adds Kira Harrison, another one of the journalists.

“[The program] taught me how I can know someone, but they might have such a different story from what they seem to have,” says participant Melissa Rios. “They have their history, and how they overcame their history.”

The American Teenager Project focuses on the misunderstandings and social inequalities that affect many teenagers across the United States. The main goal of the project is to give a voice to the teenagers who are often overlooked, or whose choices and actions are unfairly judged. Bowman and Hollinger intend to work with young people all over the United States to create an ongoing archive of adolescence.

“The main goal of The American Teenager is to build community among youths across the boundaries that normally divide them, whether it be [boundaries] by neighborhood, social group, economic class, race, or gender, and find ways to connect them with each other through their common aspirations and shared struggles,” says Hollinger.

The work of The American Teenager Project will include over 100 portraits and interviews of teenagers in and around Richmond. The exhibition of student work will be presented at the Richmond Art Center alongside Bowman’s original collection. It is free to the public and will be featured from January 11 through March 7, with a special event on February 1 from 12PM to 5PM.

 

Q&A: Reverend Michael McBride on the Drop in Bay Area Homicides

Interview • Dr. Joseph Marshall, Street Soldiers Radio

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following conversation took place on Street Soldiers Radio between Dr. Joseph Marshall, co-founder and executive director of the San Francisco-based violence prevention program Alive & Free, and Reverend Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center in West Berkeley. Reverend McBride is the director of the Lifelines to Healing Campaign, a project of the PICO National Network. The campaign is committed to addressing gun violence and mass incarceration of young people of color.

Dr. Marshall: In 2013 there was a drop in homicides in Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond, even down in San Jose, [and] in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago – from your perspective what do you think is going on here?

Rev. McBride: I’ll certainly say it’s a confluence of a number of different things, primary of which is people’s desire to stay alive and free. The choices that people are beginning to make. A lot of our loved ones and family members who are caught in these cycles of violence and poverty and exposed to nothing but tools of death … I think with the right focus and the right path and opportunity a lot of our young men are deciding to live and to solve their conflicts without resorting to lethal violence.

I think the credit has to go, at the beginning of this conversation, to every single young person that has decided to put down their gun and say, “I want to live another day.” And then after that I think the credit and the responsibility must go to all those folks who are leading organizations and movements to actually partner with the young folks and their families in these communities to make sure that their desire to live is matched with the resources, tools, with healing and all the different mechanisms that pretty much every human being across the world has access to if they are living in healthy communities that produce life and not death.

Dr. M: The experts don’t have an explanation for these trends and we’ve seen these drops before. What do think it will take to continue this drop in homicides locally and throughout the country?

Rev. M: I’m convinced that all the violence that is related to guns and homicide is continuously connected to a small number of folks in very focused communities and neighborhoods — many are characterized by poverty, lack of opportunity, and the proliferation of illegal weapons. So when we talk about homicides, we can’t ignore the strategies that are being used to target these individuals who are most likely to commit a shooting or be shot. These strategies are continuously being shown by studies to indeed create a lot of reductions (in violence).

Now, how do we sustain these reductions? Certainly our assumption in our Lifelines campaign — in cities like Oakland, Richmond, Stockton, Detroit, Camden, Baton Rouge, places where we’re on the ground and actively working — we believe the way is to continue to invest in these strategies that get closer to the young people that are driving these acts of violence, and make sure we are building an infrastructure of support and opportunity all around them.

If we invest in people and strategies that actually build them up and cut them off before they make the worst decision that they possibly can, then I believe we can have these sustained reductions, and even go deeper.  Whether it’s the Ceasefire strategy or doing street outreach, or bringing Alive & Free trainings into cities like Camden and Berkeley and Detroit; whether it’s walking neighborhoods in the evenings or going into jails and prisons, we have to keep doing all of it. The silver bullet is collaboration. It’s the Youth Uprising and the Street Soldiers programs that are doing gun buy-backs. It’s Zack Carey and the Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere that are doing peace stand-ins. It’s the City Team Ministries and OCO and PICO folks that are doing night walks. It’s the call-ins. It’s law enforcement making a better effort to not racial profile, but target those who are at the highest risk of shooting and being shot, and providing opportunities. It’s all of it together. If we can commit ourselves to working together over a sustained period of time, will see the reduction.

Dr. M: To me the crucial factor is the mentality and the culture of violence. The way people think that produces the violence, [the use of] firearms and harming someone. And this is not to minimize the efforts of law enforcement. I’m one who does that, but I think you and I know it’s a partnership. [Law enforcement] is not a prevention agency. I applaud their efforts but at the same time I do know it’s a 50-50 thing.

Rev. M: And let me add this piece as well. There are midterm elections coming up in November 2014. We have a moment in the state of California and across the country to make sure that we who are living in these communities impacted by gun violence, impacted by a radical investment in jails and prisons rather than people, that we have an opportunity to take the next step around sustainability, which is to begin to identify the policies and investments that will make sure that the success we’re having is institutionalized.

My message to folks across the country is if we’re serious about sustainability we also have to change our mindset about engagement in the process politically. We need to begin to think about how we [can] move resources. I’m taking about hundreds of millions of dollars back into Oakland, Hunters Point, Fillmore, the Iron Triangle, East San Jose. How do we make sure that our tax dollars do not continue to be spent on strategies like prisons that have been proven to not make us safe? Pay attention to the opportunity that is in front of us.

 

Hmong Parents Rely on School Janitor for Translations

News Report, Colby Tilbbet | The kNOw Youth Media

 

FRESNO — Hmong parents and community members in Fresno say a lack of translation services for Hmong speakers is the greatest barrier to that community’s engagement with Fresno Unified (FUSD) schools.

A group of them gathered for a listening session last month where they weighed in on the debate over how local school districts should be allocating their state funds.

“When I go (to school meetings), I feel like I’m an outcast,” said Yeng Xiong, a mother of two and a native Hmong speaker. Xiong said she still attends the school meetings, even though there is never a translator for her.

Hmong youth make up the second largest group of English Language Learner (ELL) students in FUSD, with Spanish-speaking students being the largest, according to the California Department of Education. Hmong are the largest Asian ethnic group in the City of Fresno, with a population of 31,771, or 3.6 percent of the city’s total population, according to 2010 census figures. In the U.S., only Minneapolis boasts a larger Hmong community (64,422) than Fresno.

The meeting, hosted by Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM), a faith-based nonprofit located in Central Fresno, was organized by New America Media to bring the voices of Hmong parents into the evolving debate over how school districts should be spending their money, in light of the state’s new school funding scheme – known as Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) – that gives local school districts more control than ever before over how they spend their state education dollars.

The community event was just one in a series of such forums, organized by NAM and financed by The California Endowment, a private health foundation, to provide a space for ethnic minority parents in California to be heard on matters concerning LCFF.

Input gathered from these meetings and others will be presented at a State Board of Education Hearing on LCFF in Sacramento on January 16th.

Paula Cha, interim co-director of FIRM, was on hand to translate for the Hmong-speaking parents who needed assistance.

A lack of Hmong speakers on school faculties and staffs, said the parents, is a major cause of the poor, or nonexistent, communication between schools and Hmong families. Without designated translators or people who can step in to fill the gap informally, parents said they felt they often miss out on large parts of their children’s education, such as not being able to attend parent teacher conference meetings, or missing general announcements made by the school.

Mee Vue, a grandparent of students attending Birney Elementary, said that her school was lucky to have a translator — the school janitor, who happens to be Hmong.

“From my experience, I feel that [he does] translate well,” said Vue.

But for Hmong parents in Fresno, Vue’s experience is the exception and not the rule.

In addition to the lack of on-campus translators, letters and notices sent by traditional mail can also often go unnoticed, due to the language barrier. And although many Fresno Unified schools produce materials that are translated into Hmong, that information reaches a limited audience, since many, if not most, Hmong speakers do not read the language.

“If you do send some literature, it will probably end up in the trash,” said Yue Cha, a father of four. “We do have Hmong [broadcast] media here locally, [and] I think that is one great way to communicate that would reach everyone’s home — either radio or television.”

Despite the communication challenges, many parents did express that their children’s schools have done a great job of teaching Hmong history and celebrating Hmong cultural heritage in their classrooms, such as when schools host events for Hmong New Year.

“Its good to know your background [is being taught at school], and I would love to see more of that. I know more schools are doing that,” said Cha.

Because the community is tightly knit, Cha believes that it wouldn’t take much to get more Hmong parents involved in the Fresno schools.

“If schools would designate a Hmong as a key leader, I think that could draw some Hmong parents,” he said.

Other issues stressed by parents were health and nutrition on school campuses. Many parents suggested instituting more health and recreation programs, a greater and healthier variety of food, and more time allotted for students to eat on campus.

“It seems like my son doesn’t receive an adequate meal for lunch,” said Xiong.

Related: The ABCs of Hmong

The kNOw Youth Media is a project of New America Media. 

Transforming Richmond, One Park at a Time

Photo Essay • David Meza

Last month, Pogo Park, a nonprofit community effort to improve parks in the Iron Triangle neighborhood, hosted a tour of its project sites in Richmond for park department board members, their families and friends. It was the first in a series of tours that will take place in early 2014 that will give the community a look at new park and playground projects, and a chance to meet the people behind the work.

The tour began at Elm Playlot, where guests were shown a storyboard that documented the five-year journey to transform Elm Playlot into the first Pogo Park project. Guests then toured the park and saw the ongoing construction of a zip line, trike path, and “global village.”

The tour moved on to Pogo Park’s second project, Harbour-8 Park on the Richmond Greenway. Here, Pogo Park is working with local partners, including Gompers Guerrilla Garden, neighborhood gardeners, and building-trade studios, to develop a two-block section of the Greenway into a children’s park surrounded by gardens. Next, guests hopped on bikes provided by nonprofit Cycles of Change and rode to 23rd Street to view key nodes of Unity Park, a large-scale park on the Greenway that will be built in collaboration with multiple community-based organizations in Richmond.

Everyone then returned to the Greenway where they were served lunch. Richmond DJ Mr. Goodbeer provided the ambiance, with soulful tunes that hummed softly over the chatter of Pogo Park’s guests.

“The purpose of these tours is to get people out to our project sites, to see for themselves how five years of dreaming and planning is now being actualized,” says Sundiata Sidibe, Pogo Park’s communications director. “Many people have only read or heard about Pogo Park. But the way to really get a feel for our projects is to come out, tour the sites yourself, and talk directly with our team of local residents that are doing the work. These tours also provide an opportunity for key stakeholders in Richmond to discuss how we can collaborate to better serve the community.”

To reserve a spot on a tour, email Sundiata at sundiata@pogopark.org 

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Young Men Deserve Credit for Steep Declines in Richmond Violence

OP-ED • DeVone Boggan

Richmond, CA has experienced another consecutive year of historic declines in violence. The City marked its lowest homicide rate in 33 years in 2013.

While we should celebrate this milestone with great exuberance, the media coverage about this success has been shortsighted. The police officers in Richmond certainly deserve recognition, but so do the young men who have decided to stop the violence.

When one truly desires to live, better decisions are made, lives are changed, and conditions are created that help to transform a city.

Each day in Richmond, boys and men of color between the ages of 13-25 (sometimes younger, sometimes older) face significant challenges including that of negotiating conflicts that have traditionally led to vicious cycles of gun violence. For example, such disputes produced more than 160 deaths here between 2006-2009.

In late 2007 the City of Richmond created the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS). The ONS is a non-law enforcement city agency with the charge of reducing firearm assaults and associated deaths. In 2013, the city recorded the lowest number of firearm assaults and homicides in more than three decades, and has experienced a 66% reduction in such crime between the ONS launch and 2013.

Although street level conflicts (disputes that may result in retaliatory cycles of gun violence) are ongoing, and several were certainly navigated by our city’s most vulnerable young men in 2013, their responses to these transgressions were far different than in past years.

In mid-2010, the ONS launched the Operation Peacemaker Fellowship, known nationally as “the Richmond Model.” As it is called by its local users, “the Fellowship” is an 18-month intensive transformative mentoring program that is responsive to and customized for those identified to be the most likely perpetrators and/or victims of firearm assaults in Richmond. Since 2010, there have been three Fellowship cohorts and as a result 68 boys and young men of color have agreed to participate. The results of this robust engagement have been dramatic and promising.

Of the 68 Fellows over the past 43 month period: 65 are alive (95%); 64 have not been injured by firearm (94%); and 57 are not in custody (84%). The Fellowship, and its Fellows, have contributed to a 50% reduction in firearm related homicides in Richmond compared to the four years before the Fellowship was implemented.

It is essential to communicate the impact of strong partnerships between a caring community and those who have the greatest influence over the direction in which gun violence trends. Without such a relationship, courage, willingness, and the patience required to empower these specific young men – very little changes, and epidemic rates of gun violence persists.

We have made a commitment to acknowledge and affirm the value, worth and humanity of these young men. As such, Richmond must continue to advance positive investments towards the hope that is dependent upon this specific group of individuals. Only then is real and longstanding “peace in our streets” possible.

There is still much work to do. No codes have been cracked and we should not be satisfied until gun violence ends in Richmond. For the families that have lost loved ones this year and in years past, you and the memory of those who have passed on have encouraged a firm resolve and an ongoing commitment to make our city a healthier place to live, work and play.

The ONS and I are truly grateful to the many young men who when faced with potentially lethal contention, made healthier decisions. We are proud of your hard work, your strength and resolve to resist years of bad information, advice, example and instruction that point you toward a path known to escalate conflicts. You are our city’s greatest resources and advocates for creating a healthy Richmond. For this we celebrate you.

So with great humility, a strong sense of pride and a heart filled with hope, I thank you!

(DeVone Boggan serves as Neighborhood Safety Director and Director of the Office of Neighborhood Safety in Richmond, California)

In Richmond, Does Eating Healthy Depend On Where You Live?

by Luis Cubas

You know how the saying goes: “You are what you eat.” The problem is, we don’t always have a choice. In many parts of Richmond, organic and fresh foods can be quite hard to come by, yet junk food is abundant – a corner store or a fast food restaurant is never too far away. As a Bay Area news reporter from NBC recently put it, “Don’t get hungry in Richmond…”

Here’s a typical scenario: With little time and money available to get lunch, you rush to the nearest fast food restaurant to grab a hamburger. You decide to get the special deal of the day — a hamburger, fries and a large soda. As you quickly unwrap the delicious burger, the familiar smell fills your nose, urging you to take a bite. You quickly devour the hamburger. You head back to work, grateful for the quick and cheap meal. It’s practically a daily ritual.  Rarely if ever do you consider that the meals — so convenient in some ways – could be causing you harm.

“People don’t understand how junk food affects their bodies and their minds. They don’t care, because they don’t see the connection between their own success and their health,” says Doria Robinson, executive director of Urban Tilth and a third-generation Richmond resident. “We have a serious lack of healthy, affordable food in Richmond. There is only one grocery store and… liquor stores.”

Robinson’s organization, Urban Tilth, utilizes a number of strategies with the end goal of getting healthier food into the kitchens of Richmond and West Contra Costa County residents. “What we do is we grow food, sell it at different schools, give it away, take it to food banks, [and] we start community gardens so that you can just grow your own for free,” says Robinson.

The term “food desert” refers to areas that have poor acess to healthy and fresh food, usually in the form of full service grocery stores. The following map gives us a look at the grocery stores and food sources located throughout Richmond.

Screenshot 2013-11-18 00.29.05As we can see, even though there are a good number of small grocery stores in the area, most of them are concentrated in the heart of the city. A closer examination reveals that many of the city’s neighborhoods, such as North Richmond, stand out due to the fact that there are no grocery stores — or even fast food restaurants — in the area.

“There aren’t as many organic markets in low-income communities,” says Richmond resident, Alma Carrillo. “Organic food is expensive compared to fast food. Also, eating healthy is time consuming. Not many families have the time to prep meals. Families don’t have time to cook, period, because of work. Dollar-menu chicken sandwiches are way more convenient, and cheaper.”

Not surprisingly, in a world where fast food has replaced fresher and more nutritious meals, health conditions like obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes have skyrocketed. As Robinson points out, “If you are surviving from packaged food (or) junk food, your stress levels are gonna be higher. Your response to stress is going to be more inefficient.”

Despite the significant obstacles, Robinson believes Richmond is headed towards a healthier future. “We have a group of people who are really interested (in promoting healthier foods)… We have an existing inventory of liquor stores, or small produce stores, that could be converted… We also have a lot of land that is cheap. So, if you look at all of those assets, you can think about actually getting to what we really need.”

Breaking Silence on Trauma is First Step to Healing

Commentary by Maaika Marshall, RYSE Youth Justice Coordinator

In cities and communities like Richmond, young people are often exposed to immense amounts of trauma and violence; and unfortunately, many of them are left to find their own ways to cope with the emotional and psychological aftermath.  But at least in Richmond, adults who support young people are trying to connect and begin a conversation about what youth are experiencing, and what should be done to help.

Over the course of 2013, the RYSE Center surveyed nearly 450 young people in Richmond about their experiences with traumatic violence, in order to determine which strategies are best suited to support their healing. The findings from that assessment, dubbed “The Listening Campaign,” were presented last month to an audience of services providers, public agencies, community organizations, schools, and funders.

The types of trauma that young people described varied widely, although there was one theme that stood out from the rest due to its frequency: exposure to gun and gang violence. Racism and bullying were also common experiences. Likewise, a number of youth reported being victim to “silent” forms of violence – things that happen away from the public eye — such as sexual and domestic violence.

Disturbingly, the interviews also revealed that by and large, young people who experience violence are choosing to simply keep quiet. Many youth described feeling shame about the things they were seeing and experiencing, and described a general lack of trust toward the adults in their lives, and a fear of being judged, as the primary reasons for their decision to remain silent.

As a result, there is a correlation between experiencing traumatic violence and unhealthy coping behaviors. Use and abuse of drugs and alcohol were the most commonly identified coping strategies – some youth reported that using allowed them to “forget” their problems for a while. “Running away,” both physically and metaphorically, was heard from the youth. The most damaging behaviors, such as drug abuse, usually accompanied the worst types of violence.  Only a small percentage of young people surveyed (1 to 2 percent) said they responded to their traumatic experience by seeking counseling.

The Listening Campaign lays the foundation for youth service providers and others who work in service or on behalf of young people to begin to make headway on “breaking the silence” of violence-induced trauma in children. Many youth who participated in the campaign described needing “someone they can trust, someone to listen to them.” In turn, the adults expressed a commitment to continue listening and create programs, policies and practices that will ensure young people in the community feel safe to share their experiences, and loved.  It is important for all community members to remember that all it can take to change a young person’s life is for one person to stop and LISTEN!

For more information about the Listening Campaign, you can contact Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, RYSE Community Health Director at Kanwarpal@rysecenter.org

Soon-to-Be Parents Get What They Need at Resource Fair

News Feature, Chanelle Ignant

The gymnasium at Lavonya DeJean Middle School gave new meaning to the phrase “multi-purpose” last Saturday, when it was transformed into a baby shower venue for scores of expecting parents and their family members.

The second annual Family Resource Fair, sponsored by 4 Richmond and West County Baby Committee, was held to raise awareness of city programs and resources for pre-natal and post-natal care. About sixty soon-to-be parents and relatives took advantage of the resources and were treated to breakfast and lunch, as well as a raffle, free baby clothes, and other necessities.

Joan Carpenter, district coordinator for city supervisor John Gioia, said the event is a crucial one for many Richmond families.

“We have such a high rate of African-American and Latino infant mortality in West Contra Costa County,” said Carpenter, who started the event last year as a way to meet the challenges faced by local parents.

“A lot of the mothers don’t have resources like clothing or things they need for infants. We wanted to make sure they have all the resources they need to keep their baby healthy,” she said.

As well as distributing much needed material help, the fair puts a focus on parents establishing healthy habits before, during and after pregnancy.

Alexina Rojas of West Contra Costa First Five led participants through stretching exercises in between presentations, demonstrating simple routines that parents can do at home.

“Kids learn what they see”, said Dr. Desmond Carson, during his presentation on weight management. “If they see you exercising, they will too.”

Staff from Oakland-based Lifelong Medical Care provided free glucose screenings.

Presentations offered practical parenting tips, information about the Affordable Care Act, information on how to access to continued education, and lessons on money management.

First time mom Samantha Baumgardner was invited by her mother. The 24-year-old aspiring medical technician was encouraged by the stories of moms who had children early, but started successful careers later in life.

“I was surprised to hear that they were able to make a career after having a kid at a young age,” said Baumgardner.

Peter Memariam came hoping to receive information, and he left impressed by the upscale feel of the event, and grateful for the resources provided. The 27-year-old is expecting his first son, with partner Rachel Valle.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin was among a number of public officials and community leaders who attended the fair.

Even those who weren’t expecting children said they learned something new that they could share with friends and family.

“I didn’t know that so many resources were out there,” said Kim Jones. She found out about the event through First 5, and brought her four-month-old granddaughter.

Stephanie Sequeira had her first child at 17. Now 25, and a mother of three, Sequeira learned about the resource fair and decided to invite some of her friends who are soon to be mothers.

“I didn’t have all the resources they’re talking about today,” said Sequeira.

12 Years a Slave – A Must See Film For Black Youth

Movie Review, Monet Boyd

I recently had the privilege of watching the new movie, “12 Years a Slave,” which is based on a memoir by Solomon Northup. Northup was born in 1808 in Saratoga, New York as a free Black man. His book tells the story of his capture by slave traders in 1841 and the ensuing long hard years he spent transitioning from a free life to that of a slave.

He was a father, a husband, and a well-respected man in the north. One of his many skills was playing the fiddle, which benefited him in many ways throughout the movie. Solomon Northup was a survivor. He never lost his identity, though slave masters, overseers, and even other slaves told him to forget his past. In one scene, an overseer beats him brutally just for uttering his real name and proclaiming that he was a free man. Even after his back was stripped of its skin, he still stood tall.

As I sat in the movie theater watching amazing actors and actresses depict my ancestors and their many hardships, all I could do was cry. From the stripping of names, to the stripping of skin, to the breaking of families, I truly cannot understand why people choose to forget about this part of history. Maybe some choose to forget because it is such a harsh reality. Most often we are told that slavery is where Black history begins — not that we were Kings and Queens with unshackled feet, long before we were stripped of our land and freedoms. This movie is a reminder that my ancestors were not submissive, but warriors who knew that it would one day get better. I hope, in my own life, to internalize their strength and greatness.

The film is far from comfortable — the brutality and the unbelievable mental and physical abuse is no happy sight. Director Steve McQueen unapologetically displays the inhumanity of slavery.

My mind was blown by hearing the words and phrases used by the slaveholders, and how they were not unfamiliar to me: “nigga,” “stop crying before I give you a reason to cry,” and “light skin is better than dark skin.” I find it scary that these words are still spoken. I find it scary that we have internalized these terms, and now use them to refer to one another. In one scene, another slave, Patsy, is getting whipped when the master asks Solomon to do it. He doesn’t want to, but Patsy says, “I rather it be you, Solomon.” As a people, I wonder if we have gotten used to hurting one another?

In another scene, Solomon is hanging from a tree with a noose around his neck and his feet barely touching the ground. People walk around him, and even children play. Only one girl gives him water. To see Black people so numb to slavery and its brutality made my stomach turn. It reminded me of how Black boys die on the streets and no one mourns unless the media makes a big deal of it. And the hand that killed him probably looked similar to his. I think in the Black community we have a lot of self-hate.

Although “12 Years a Slave” is hard to watch at times, it is a must see for people of all ages. As a 16-year-old, I was enlightened by the truth in this film, and I encourage all young folks to see it. Yes, it’s sad, but we need to see what our ancestors went through, so we can make sure that their blood was not shed in vain; that we do not repeat the very crimes against each another that our ancestors once endured at the hands of others.

RAW Talent Presents “Po’ Boys Kitchen”

A Spoken Word Theater Piece by Richmond Youth,
March 7th & 8th at De Anza High School Theater

“Po’Boys Kitchen” is a spoken word theater piece written, directed, and produced by Richmond youth. The central character of this show is the corner store itself, a Black-owned, family business in the heart of Richmond that provides a place of refuge for those looking to escape their harsh realities. Through the daily drama of life inside Po’Boys, we hear the stories of the downtrodden characters who are so often overlooked and unheard- the homeless, the prostitute the drug dealers, the crack addicts. Some come for Po’Boys’ signature butter-me-up-cornbread and Big Mama’s southern lemonade, comfort food that generations of their families have been raised on. Some stop in to talk trash, crack jokes, or gossip about daily news. Some come seeking wisdom and redemption, a clean slate where they can re-write themselves. For most people, Po’Boys is more than a convenient store, but a place that saved their lives. This show centers in on what it means to be family, how to forgive and move forward, and how a community can heal itself through hard work and love.

We will be having a “Po’Boys Kitchen” fundraiser and sneak peek of the play from 7-9pm on Saturday, December 7th at the Maple Hall Community Center (13831 San Pablo Ave). Save the date and get ready for an evening of delicious soul food, music, poetry, theater and more!

For more information contact RAW Talent Coordinator Molly Raynor at (734) 395-5899