youth speak out

while i’m watching this, i’m remembering the amazing young people i had the privilege and pleasure to work with last summer through the summer youth dialogues program in 2008.

during the last few dialogue sessions, i was working along with the other co-facilitators to shift the focus of the dialogue from talking to action and planning. the most challenging question to answer was: what do you want to change about your community? and how could we have expected them to have answered this question? living in a metro area, which doesn’t feel metro at all, with little access to transportation to get to people, to get to places where things are written in other languages — we came into their lives, as real as they are, and asked them to tell us what was wrong. how can someone know what’s wrong if they don’t know what’s right? how is a high school student breathing ford-polluted air in the south end of dearborn gonna know about the newly remodeled schools and skate parks in farmington hills? how are kids at cooley high school supposed to know that kids at other schools don’t have a police mini-station* in the room right down the hall from their principal’s office? how are kids at cooley supposed to know that in other schools, the security guards don’t harrass the students and don’t grope female students in a pat-down**? there is a dangerous  disconnect between communities in metro-detroit. when we asked our dialogue participants about what they wanted to fix, they didn’t have anything to compare with. they didn’t know what was ‘bad’ or ‘good’ in their schools because to them, it just was, it just is. but here, in the june jordan rally (bless her soul, bless her soul), these young people are able to identify wrongs. and they have armed themselves with solutions.

* i tried to find pictures of the police mini-stations online but i couldn’t find any, i only found articles. the police mini-station, from what i remember, was a fairly large room among the classrooms. when someone walks into cooley, there are multiple security guards and several detectors that the students had to walk through. right past the detectors, there is a huge platform where the security guards sit and oversee the entrance of the school.  platform isn’t even the word to describe it, it is a big block where you can only see the top halves of the guards’ bodies, i’ll try to find a picture resembling it if i can.

** while co-facilitating a poetry workshop at cooley, a student approached me and my co-facilitator amber after class to talk about her friend who had been harassed by the security guard. according to what she told us, the guard made her lift up her shirt and took her cell phone, she said he touched her in some way and the girl, rightfull so, snapped back at him. this is but one instance with a security guard and i’m not saying that every security guard at cooley does these things. but you can be damn sure that if this happened at any other school and an administrator found out about it, the guard would have been booted.

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