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Three perspectives on incarceration, criminal justice, and the impact on society

In The Guardian this week, an article was published noting that there had been 994 mass shootings in 1004 days. The rhetoric spinning out from the tragedy has focused on mental health, residual commentary on gun violence, and security (with some going so far as to suggest that arming more people is a step toward preventing such a shooting from reoccurring). Below are three links — two documentary and one media commentary — that tangentially or directly address issues of gun violence, incarceration, criminal justice, and mental health in our country. There are more, and we’ll share them here as part of our ongoing efforts to inform ourselves and each other as we engage in debates about justice in the lives of youth. We encourage you to share additional pieces that you’d like to include in subsequent posts.

HBO’s VICE Special Report: Fixing the System
President Barack Obama sits down with Vice and prison inmates at the El Reno correctional facility to discuss a growing human rights crisis in the Vice on HBO Special Report: Fixing the System.

Prison Kids: A Crime Against America’s Children
Presented by entrepreneur, music mogul and activist Russell Simmons and narrated by “Empire” actress Gabourey Sidibe, this hourlong documentary investigation, “Prison Kids,” is the result of Fusion’s work. It is a story about how to take children and ostracize them, derange them, outlaw them. It is the story of America’s crimes against children.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health
John Oliver explains how our national system of treating mental health works, or more often than not, how it doesn’t.

Memorial for Sharieff Clayton

Reimagining Futures

Two months ago, our teacher, mentor, and friend, Sharieff Clayton, was taken away from his friends and family much too soon. On Monday, June 29th, his life and the impact he has on so many other people’s lives will celebrated during a memorial in his honor.

Details:
DATE: Monday, June 29, 2015
TIME: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
LOCATION: First Corinthians Baptist Church, 1912 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd, NY, NY 10027
(at 116th St.)

Sharieff Clayton Memorial Flyer

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#YMEJ year-end exhibition

#YMEJ (Un)Final Projects – Exhibition Opening
May 11, 2015, 6-8p, Russell Library 1st floor lobby
Teachers College, Columbia University

image

This year’s #YMEJ exhibition incorporates an emphasis on
multiliteracies, which has been at the center of our inquiries as we
engaged with the lives of young people involved in the foster care and
juvenile justice systems. Embedded in their institutional experiences
are a range of other forces that have informed our own understandings
about surveillance, justice, and education in these young people’s
lives, as well as the creative capacities that are brought forth when
we create the conditions that allow their literacies and practices of
possibility to flourish.

On the life and death of a friend.

He was a man

Sharieff Clayton is more than the name of a victim who was “fatally shot” or “killed” or is “dead” as a result of a shooting in Brooklyn last night*.

He was a man, a colleague, a friend who dedicated the last decade of his life to working with, learning with, laughing with, teaching with, creating with, imagining with, exploring the world with the young men and women whom he met as a member of the staff at an alternative to detention program.

He was a man who loved his family fiercely, who glowed with pride when he talked about his wife and children, sharing stories of their accomplishments and giggling when describing his children’s antics; he beamed even more brightly when they occasionally joined him at his workplace.

He was a man who wrote a book while he was incarcerated, which was published after he returned home and that continues to be read by thousands; it was supposed to be the first of many.

He was a man who had just completed his second book, written in stolen hours of the morning, on the subway, while walking to and from work, much of it thumbed into his phone so he wouldn’t lose the freshness of any thought that occurred to him; he was so proud of what had taken him over six years to write; he was writing as much for his audience as for himself.

He was a man who, every day, kept his promise to the young men and women at the program where he worked to live the words he would share with them: Honor. Honesty. Family. Commitment. Conviction. Education. Self-respect. A legacy of greatness.

He was a man who had very recently decided to focus full time on his writing and to embrace his identity as an author; he began imagining conversations around his new book that would bring together diverse groups of people in a Socratic seminar style.

He was a man who didn’t comprehend the concept of giving up on someone, who brought young people back into the fold of the program where he worked even after they were no longer participants; and they returned, to have a place to be and be seen and belong, if only temporarily.

He was a man who carried his past experiences with gun violence and incarceration with him and shared it openly in service of his greater educational mission to invite people to interrupt what seems unchangeable, to imagine things as they might be, to continually dwell in the possibility of the “not yet.”

He was a man whose words stayed with the young men and women he taught, often making an appearance in their minds at unexpected but crucial moments.

He was a man for whom friendship permeated his ways of working with colleagues and who deeply valued these relationships as vital to him personally and in service of his commitment to be the change, see the change, and nurture those who can change the world.

He was a man who approached the world as a teacher and a learner, for whom every encounter held the potential to educate.

He was a man about whom stories of justice and commitment and caring will be told, should be told.

He was a man whom it was a privilege to have known.

He was a man who should be here today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And…

He was a man.

*Monday, April 27th

YMEJ @ Justice Teaching Roundtable (with Center for Justice at Columbia)

This week, Prof. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz and I will be representing the teaching team and talking about our YMEJ work — including the seminar, the emerging research, and our public pedagogy efforts (including this blog) — as part of the Justice Teaching Roundtable Series. We are thrilled and humbled to be participating in this dialogue with our colleagues from across the university, and as part of our presentation we will be sharing excerpts from the past years of work with the YMEJ graduate seminar, the collaborative mentoring experiences, and we’ll be engaging the audience in some YMEJ-style inquiry through media-making.

If you’re near the Columbia campus, stop by and check it out. We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

YOUTH, MEDIA AND EDUCATIONAL JUSTICE: BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH COLLABORATIVE INQUIRY

Tuesday November 18th, 2014 – 3–5pm
Teachers College, Russell Hall Rm 305

New year, new possibilities

The third year of our YMEJ seminar has begun! This year, we are focusing more explicitly on multiliteracies (the “M” in YMEJ), while still engaged in ample media production and media analysis in our journey to explore the ways in which the stories, lives, and institutional experiences of court-involved young people are represented and mediated.

Once again, we have an exciting new group of graduate students from several different departments at Teachers College who are taking this journey with us. You will be hearing from them soon.

Last week we were visited by the inimitable Prof. Suzanne Carothers who reminded us that we must look inward before we can move forward with our desires to “help” — in her invitation are echoes of those wise words from Australian Aboriginal artist and elder, Lilla Watson: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

As in years past, we are fortunate to have built a strong circle of critical friends who join us as guest speakers and share their insights and pose invitations to us to look and look again differently at that which we are in the pursuit of trying to understand. In this seminar, all of us are always students and teachers; we all learn with and from each other and of course with and from the young people with whom we continue to work and in service of whose educational wellbeing we are committed.

Join us as we embark on this next leg of our journey and as new bloggers share their perspectives with you. And in the meantime, don’t forget to follow us on twitter: @YMediaJustice

Planning for this year’s YMEJ Seminar

First class (photo by Melissa Wade – @honeybee22274)

2nd Annual YMEJ Clothing Drive

YMEJ Clothing Drive

Donation bins in Zankel Hall & Whittier Hall, Teachers College

In conjunction with this year’s YMEJ Exhibition — “Inquiry into Educational Justice” — we are launching a clothing drive to collect new and like-new items of clothing that will be donated to alternative to detention (ATD) programs in New York City.

This clothing drive is our second, and follows on the huge success of last spring’s event in which we collected over 65 bags of clothing and accessories that were distributed to 5 different ATDs in three boroughs. In our work with youth, we have consistently heard from them that a major obstacle to regular school attendance is the fear of being teased or bullied for a lack of clothing. Thus, we reached out to the Teachers College and greater Columbia University community and were overwhelmed by students’ thoughtfulness and generosity. Our ATD partners were similarly touched and Ana Dopazo, a Senior Education Specialist at Choices ATD, shared these thoughts with us:

Usually when people hear of a child who is consistently missing school they think that the child is getting into trouble or not interested in school or lazy etc…but in actuality there are many reasons that a child might not be succeeding academically that are not by choice. The participants that we usually have in our program are living in poverty. We constantly see kids that refuse to go to school because they don’t have clothes that are clean, in good condition, or that even fit properly because they’ve grown out of it or are sharing clothes with family. Sometimes just getting them new clothes is the simple solution to their school attendance…it gives them their confidence, allows them to feel comfortable in a social setting, and it gives them the motivation to go to school. Many people can’t understand why this would affect someone so tremendously because most of us don’t realize that being able to go shopping for clothes is a luxury, and not something that everyone is capable of doing. The clothing drive will help our kids in need to hopefully be able to add a few items to their wardrobe that will allow them at least some outfits they can mix and match to attend school. I don’t think that this is the answer to all our truant kids but it’s a start…it’s an opportunity to allow these kids that actually want to go to school a chance to have a normal educational experience without the worries of whether or not he/she will have something to wear to school. This clothing drive can also be the answer to our kids not getting rearrested for stealing things they need and may also prevent teasing or bullying in school. So its not just giving a kid a shirt or pants to wear its so much more that: you are contributing to this child life.

 

Please share this information widely and look for donation boxes in both Zankel Hall and Whittier at Teachers College — and please consider making a clothing donation.

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