“Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies - or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.
HIP@Civitas students KaTia and Talaytha went to various organizations and businesses in Baltimore City today, interviewing individuals on their perspectives of peace and respect. They did a wonderful job and learned a lot. Special thanks to Park Heights Renaissance, the Public Defender’s office (in Park Heights), Community Mediation Program, Power Inside, the Yabba Pot, and my co-workers at American Friends Service Committee. We just dropped into these places and they welcomed us with open arms, so please support them as they support the community!
“Peace is good, let’s stop the fights!
Get together and make the rights
And I do this for HAP
That’s why they call me
Don’t be a follower
Just be a leader
Do all your work
Don’t be a cheater”—Dorian Evans, HIP @ HAP student
On Saturday December 4, 2010 at Coppin State University, youth advocates, social workers, writers, lawyers, entertainers, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers came together to discuss how to make all youth feel safe and valued in our society. Youth Wellness and Equality Day was something you don’t see much in Baltimore: a day where people from all walks of life came together to support the lives of LGBTQ youth in the city. Finally, as a collective, we stood up and said “No More!” No more bullying and harassment, no more suicides and mental health risks, no more homelessness and no more discrimination due to sexual orientation. Most common, no more passive homophobia that affects the lives of all our children. How many of us were afraid to be ourselves in our youth in fears of being called a name?
These issues and more were discussed during our Listening Project and Community Forum. During the Listening Project, we watched “No Homo” a youth made short documentary created by Baltimore’s own New Lens Productions. The participants were extremely touched by the video, and as young adults it took them back to growing up as a same gender loving youth. We also discussed solutions and what needed to happen to make things better. Mentoring groups, unity within the LGBT community, anti-bullying or safe school zones, and more honest conversations about the affects of homophobia on youth were discussed as possible solutions.
The Community Forum was a huge success. The discussion moderated by public radio WEAA’s Anthony McCarthy, focused on what institutions that have the greatest affect on youth could do to promote wellness and safety in the community for LGBTQ youth (of color primarily). The panelists included myself, Kenneth Morrison, Youth Coordinator of Park Heights Renaissance and author Meredith Moise, activist, teacher, writer and priest; Lisa C. Moore, publisher of books written by LGBT people of color; Bryanna “Aeon Farr” Jenkins, Transgender activist with Trans United, student and popular E-show host, and Lorenzo “Bleu Waters” Cooper, Psychology and Social Work student and artist. This dynamic panel came with great insight and unique perspective on not only the problem, but the solution. One solution suggested by Lisa C. Moore and supported by others is this: “We need more black gay people to come out, and speak up on a one-on-one level. That’s another very effective form of activism. I’m doing that on an individual level, letting young black LGBTQ youth know that we’re out here, regular folks walking around, living our lives on the regular.” See the video for the community forum here.
The night ended with Kenneth Morrison’s Book Release Party for Blood, Bricks and Dandelions: To Be Young Black and Gay hosted by publisher DewDrop Collective’s Marc Evans. Kenneth read excerpts from this book discussing his challenges with his first crush, first love, coming out, being kicked out, being supported by his adoptive gay father, and other successes and challenges as a youth activist in Baltimore. Many stop up, gay and straight, and expressed how his story has touched them and how an event like this shows there’s hope for a better tomorrow. The After-School Institute performed a skit and dance performance in the light of World Aids Day. Other featured performances included local sensations Hollywood Infinite, Uni Q Mical, and J Pope. Through their art they represented the challenges of being an LGBTQ youth as well as general challenges and successes. Great performances were also done by open mic participants.
Lorenzo Cooper reflected on the event saying this, “Wonderful event…I enjoyed the panelists, the healthy dialogue, and the wonderful poetry…I read the book in its entirety, I am so glad I was a part of the event.”
Special thanks to those who came, our volunteers, and our sponsors: The After-School Institute, The Portal, Park Heights Renaissance, and Coppin State University’s Urban Studies Department. The Baltimore Youth Empowerment through Conflict Resolution Program is very proud to be a part of such a ground breaking event. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would to be involved in future conversations about this issue. We are trying to effect real change in this city via initiatives that work.
“Until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation…That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained.”—Haile Selassie I
Call for Participants: Youth Equality and Wellness Day!
For those of us who work with young people, we have a special interest in their safety and wellbeing. We build our careers on doing our part to make sure these children and smarter, stronger, happier, healthier and safer than the previous generation. We don’t always succeed in our efforts but we always move the mission forward.
Right now is a key time in reevaluating whether or not we have the same expectations and hope for all the young people we work with. Recent public events have revealed that a special population of youth don’t typically feel safe or well in their environments and are much more likely to commit suicide as a result. These are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Youth advocates Mia Jones of AFSC’s Youth Empowerment through Conflict Resolution Program and Kenneth Morrison of Park Heights Renaissance have decided to combine efforts in stirring a dialog that asks the question: What can we do to make sure ALL of our youth feel safe and wanted? We are hoping that help up with this conversation by letting your constituency know about the following event.
On Saturday December 4, 2010 we will be hosting the LGBTQ Youth Wellness and Equality Day at Coppin State University’s Human and Health Services Building. This will include a Listening Project, Community Dialog, and Book Release Party. This event is completely free and all are welcome to attend.
Listening Project 1:30- 4:00pm RM 223 K
The purpose of this activity is to hear from LGBTQ youth and allies about their challenges and how they see moving forward in this. We are asking that you inform youth and school organizations who might be interested in using their voice to better the community as a whole. We are also looking for a young person to be on the panel directly following.
Community Dialog 5:00- 6:30pm RM 103
This will consist of a panel of community leaders, experts and young people as we discuss youth suicide, bullying, and mental health. We will also discuss how the issue of homophobia affects all young people and interferes with youth reaching their full potential and how we as a community can ensure the safety and wellbeing of our youth. We are asking teachers, principals, community leaders, activists, clergy, parents and all others that work directly with young people to add to this conversation.
Book Release Party 7:00- 9:00pm Atrium
Kenneth Morris is releasing his long awaited book Blood, Bricks and Dandelions: To Be Young, Black and Gay in Baltimore. He will be reading some excerpts from this book that shows his own personal trials and successes. He will be accompanied by a band and other performers, including an open mic where those from the audience can share their stories. Food will be included. Those who believe art is a powerful tool for positive change are invited to attend.
We look forward to working together with you to create the next generation of happy and healthy children. We thank you in advance for spreading the word. If you have any questions or would like to volunteer, feel free to contact Mia Jones at email@example.com or Kenneth Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”—Martin Luther King, Jr
December 4th, 2010 we will be hosting LGTBQ Youth and Equality Day at Coppin State University. We are especially interested in people of faith to be in attendance. Our goal is that youth and those who have a direct effect on their lives, are empowered to ensure safety and wellness of ALL youth in Baltimore. It’s time for peace, love and justice. Learn more here
Active listening skills are a central part in growing and understanding. Understanding is a central part of peace and justice. Please join us at this workshop to increase our listening skills and prepare for LGBTQ Youth Equality and Wellness Day!
As the election nears, the main thing on everyone’s agenda has been JOBS. Everyone’s main concern has been jobs, jobs, jobs with no recognition in the mainstream media where these jobs are going. We’ve blamed China, India, and new immigrants but seemed to have forgotten that over the past 20 yrs the prison population has more than doubled. How does this relate to jobs? Prison labor is free labor, our ongoing system of slavery. Inmates make everything from cosmetics to furniture. Education programs have been taken out of prisons, replaced with more work, giving them skills they usually can’t use on the “outside”. It costs between 18,000 and 50,000 to keep a person in prison for a year. That’s not only the average college tuition, but that’s a decent paying job with benefits. In the new documentary “Waiting for Superman,” they make the point that money sent to imprison a person, is also money that could used to send a child to private school for K-12 and all four years of college.
So why do we keep pumping money into this system!? Because of the money it makes. Prison is the fastest growing industry in America providing manufactures, politicians, lawyers, judges, and the CEOs of these prisons with mad money! The average correctional officers, police officers and wardens risk their life everyday to make just a little, but it’s a steady job. As the prisons began to privatize in the early 90s, more and more prisons sprung up and needed people to fill them. See positive correlation between privatization of prisons, a crack down on drug laws (pun intended) and the 3 strikes law. Like any other business, you need customers to make it work, the more the better. You would think privatization of prison meant less money coming from tax payers pockets right? NO! We are spending a lot of money on this at the local, state and federal level.
How does this relate to youth? Many ways…
1. An overwhelming number of people in prison are people of color. (see: accurate connection to slavery and the 13th amendment) The children of these inmates face a lot of personal and financial troubles because of their parents in prison. Many of the students I work with have or have had a mother or father in prison and don’t know how to reconcile the love for a parent with the hate of a criminal. The system destroys families.
2. The babies are going to prison! Recently in Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill that would designate 100 million dollars to build a new youth jail in Baltimore, when money for education has been halted. On average, a youth in prison receives more money than a youth in school. This still happens even though it has already been proven that the better the educational attainment, the less likely a child will end up in prison. We also knows that 3rd grade test scores are used to determine how many new prisons need to built. We call this the school to prison pipeline.
Unfortunately when any state even thinks about breaking down this system even a bit, the propaganda starts pointing to the just 2% of the prison population, the rapists and the murderers. We can not keep wasting tax dollars, destroying families and lives because of 2% of the population.
It’s time to have a real conversation about how this system. Crime hurt holistically the victim, offender and community and so we need a more holistic approach. It’s also important for us to reanalyze the laws that make this possible.
Restorative Justice takes into account that crime hurts everyone, victim, offender and community. Check out this conference and other resources to learn more and maybe change the culture of policing and criminal “justice” in this country.
This weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in a Virtues Training with the Mamas of WombWorks Productions. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but I knew it would be a positive, spirit pleasing event. That is was as a small group of folk gathered learning about virtues and how to live them actively in their everyday lives and highlight them in others.
“The virtues are the very meaning and purpose of our lives. They are universally valued by people of all faiths and cultures. We seek ways to renew and deepen our connection with the values that give direction to our lives. We strive to mentor our children and to build safe and caring schools and communities.”
Participants left feeling full of emotion, free of distress and empowered to be their full beautiful selves. I will definitely implement some of these virtue principles in my work with youth.
By instilling these virtues, we will find greater peace within ourselves and community.. isn’t what we’re all about. The Virtues Project is growing in Baltimore so look out for the next training. WombWorks will certainly continue to do them all around the city to continue to help increase the peace. Stay connected.
In March the Baltimore City Health Department hosted a Youth Violence Prevention Week. Youth Empowerment through Conflict Resolution Program’s Director Mia Jones along with other leaders in youth violence prevention speak on the topic on WEAA 88.9 Anthony McCarthy Show.
“Im for truth, no matter who tells it. Im for justice, no matter who it is for or against. Im a human being, first and foremost, and as such Im for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”—Malcolm X