Home » Articles posted by lalitha (Page 2)

Author Archives: lalitha

Pondering Child Homelessness in the Wake of Dasani

Last week, thanks to Andrea Elliott‘s five-part series in the NY Times, the name Dasani came to mean much more than a label found on the side of a slender, blue-hued, plastic water bottle.

The series, which profiles young Dasani and her family as they experience various dimensions of homelessness and institutional forms of support and challenge, has received a significant amount attention in the mainstream press as well as across local contexts including our twitter stream, classroom discussions, hallway conversations, and, in one instance, a bus ride debate.

I am still very much mulling over the intricate layers of information and analysis of child homelessness that Elliott’s narrative offers, so in the meantime I thought I would share a collection of resources that I have gathered to help my own ongoing analysis and sense-making:

 

Additional Resources (taken from the Reading Club and other sources)

Retro: Paint Me Like I Am

Re-blogged from last year’s YMEJ cohort — the connection between cultural responsiveness in teaching and research and the pursuit of educational justice (with a little Nikki Giovanni for good measure). 

(And another connection to arts and justice, akin to this post with the same name by Kelly Gavin Zuckerman from earlier this semester.)

The Youth and Mentoring Collaborative

Nikki Giovanni requests, “Paint me like I am.” I am reminded of the words of this poem as I continue to work on my final publication and present the participants of this inquiry as they are; as they would like to be known.

When I think about culturally responsive research, I think about the work I’m doing in this course. In addition to thinking about youth, media, and educational justice and the interconnections between, this project has invited me to think about what I’m learning from the participants and ways I can contribute something back in honor of them.

As a result of looking at and listening to the ideas the participants several questions are raised that are driving my work.  What narratives are emerging? How do these narratives play out differently among the different participants?  How am I reading narratives across the ideas of the participants? How am I…

View original post 266 more words

Book talk: “Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal Explorations with Youth”

Reimagining Futures

131202_219x365_booktalk2

Please join us for a discussion of our edited collection, “Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal Explorations with Youth

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 3rd
Time: 3:30-5:00pm
Location: Teachers College, Columbia University (525 W. 120th St., 10027)
Room: 104B Russell (1st floor, TC Library)

Featuring several of the chapter authors.

More info about the event here: http://library.tc.columbia.edu/news.php?id=1042

About the book:
This volume brings together a collection of chapters authored by practitioners and researchers who worked with youth in a variety of arts-based and media settings. Central to all of the chapters is an emphasis on how, through exploration with the arts and media, young people involved with the juvenile justice system may be engaged as agentive partners in reimagining education in their lives. Ranging from photography and theater to media making and creative writing, the contexts depicted in this volume hold important implications for educators, the field of youth development, and policy makers in…

View original post 230 more words

Engaging Youth as Active Participants In/For Social Change

What do texting, hanging out, breaking bread, and laughter have in common? They are all practices central to Tara Conley‘s thoughtful and pathbreaking work in embracing a participatory design approach to the critical engagement of youth in the creation of a digital artifact that is meant to support their wellbeing. This is participatory prototyping at its best. (Wanna know more? Check out Tara’s talk — details below.)

Tara, a doctoral candidate at Teachers College and founder of Media Make Change (and YMEJ project team member), kicked off this year’s Racial Literacy Roundtable (RLR) Series (founded by Prof. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz)– this year’s focus: The Year of the Youth — on Monday night with an interactive and highly participatory presentation in which she explored for the audience the affordances and challenges of pursuing this form of action-oriented research.

Central to Tara’s mission is finding innovative ways to leverage everyday media and technology resources to create opportunities to interrupt and transform geographies of dislocation, particularly among young people who experience social and institutional marginalization on a regular basis. (Multiple forms of dislocation are especially evident in the lives of court-involved youth with whom she and we work on a regular basis.) She pursues this goal — what she called her life’s work — not only seeking out young people’s input, but by co-constructing the research and design contexts, direction, and intention with them (not a seamless, but definitely worthwhile undertaking).

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 9.30.25 PM Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 9.30.16 PM Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 9.29.47 PM

Watch an excerpt and read more about Tara’s talk — “Possibilities of Designing with and for Underrepresented Communities: A Conversation about Participation, Court-involved Youth, and Humility” — in which she provides an overview of her socially engaged social action project, TxtConnect. You’ll also find a link to her slides, which are chock full of useful and important information.

Please share widely!

(Congrats, Tara!)

Neverending “June” — Or: The burden of care

Paris

Jef Aerosol public art, near Rue Mouffetard, Paris. For more about Jef Aerosol, see: http://www.jefaerosol.com/
(Photo by Lalitha Vasudevan, 2012)

 

I started reading “To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care” by Cris Beam a few weeks ago. At this point I feel it necessary to say that I am usually a fast reader, a habit nurtured by years of reading voraciously by flashlight as an adolescent, long after “lights out.” And yet, I can only read this book in small chunks, 30 minutes at a time. Beam’s writing is engaging and her style brings stories of foster children’s and foster families’ everyday lived realities into conversation with institutional and legislative history, current social science research, and large scale demographic data sets. In short, her book is compelling. However, I find myself pausing to ponder after each scene is depicted or after one of countless bon mots dropped carefully along the reading expedition.

With the end of the book looming near, I find myself wanting to start the book again, as if I’m hoping for different realities or for the existing ones to change. And it is from this unsettling place of seeking agency that I recently read a related article in the Sonoma Index-Tribune: “The arduous journey of the foster child” by Jaime Ballard.

This is the first piece in a three-part series the newspaper is rolling out to call attention to how California youth experience that state’s foster care system. Like in Beam’s accounts, the voices of the youth who were interviewed for the piece call up questions about their caregivers and the conditions in which they lived prior to entering the system. Children being removed from their homes is a scenario that plays out over and over again in my mind in technicolor (and occasionally my mind drifts back to that vivid image of Elián González, the young Cuban boy who was forcibly removed from his relatives’ home; of course the circumstances were altogether different. Still, the image remains.) What must the circumstances be for a child to be removed and then placed in one of any number of placements that themselves may be viewed as “unstable” in a different light.

My friend and colleague (and YMEJ team member), Melissa Wade, is all too familiar with such stories and reminds me again and again that there must be an “imminent threat or danger to the life of a child” in order for a child to be removed. And in the same breath shares the story of a young person who was removed from her home because her parents were found guilty of “educational neglect,” or not enforcing her school attendance. One wonders not only who is making the consequential decisions that drastically alter a child’s path, but also how those decisions are informed. Who is on the side of the youth?

What stands out in the Sonoma news article as well as in Beam’s book are the many faces of pain evident in the words, actions, and postures of the young people who are held in suspended reality as a “dependent of the court.” To whom do I belong? To whom do I show allegiance? By whom will I be protected and nurtured? Who truly has my best interests at heart?

These are among the questions that lie underneath the sentiments that youth like Angie (pseudonym) express:

“I was a good kid, never did anything wrong, stayed out of trouble – but was always treated like a criminal by the courts.”

Or when Phoenix, another foster youth quoted in the article, says:

“Mostly I was a child of neglect and emotional abuse – being called names and yelled at all the time.”

These recollections are woven through a system that is characterized by and “strenuous and sometimes harrowing court proceedings” and “too few foster families available to care for children in need.”

Ballard’s article concludes with a note of advocacy: for more people to take on the role of Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA*. In some ways, the piece plays to the public’s desire to do something in response to reading about the situations that comprise (and often compromise) the wellbeing in these young people’s everyday lives.

[Millie] Gilson [director of the Sonoma County CASA branch] said, “There is a proactive point of order. I would encourage everyone to become a CASA, to get involved. Being a CASA is one of the most unique forms of citizen involvement, and it’s very much a staple of the foster care system.”

Both Beam’s and Ballard’s writings about the foster care system, albeit in two different locales, offer glimpses into everyday realities of thousands of children and youth and the families who care for them, both biological and foster. But as the stories they weave also suggest, there may be a significant role for non-family adults to play, thereby begging the question: Who is responsible for the care of all the children? (and relatedly, Who is implicated in their care?**)

Whether relying on the interested other — the socially engaged stranger — is a flaw or force of the foster care system is debatable.  But that children and youth need caring adults in their lives — to inspire and nurture them, to push and attend to them, to listen and provide guidance, to see them — is not.

*For more information about CASAs, including the process for applying to become a volunteer CASA, check out these resources:

**During last year’s YMEJ Seminar, Joe Riina-Ferrie (then a graduate student mentor in the course; now a member of the YMEJ Project/Teaching Team) pursued an inquiry into the idea of care. His yearend publication brought together this inquiry in the form of edited interviews with members of the seminar, including youth, other graduate student mentors, and other members of the teaching team. Listen to these multiple perspectives on care:

what is care?

New Books on Youth, Justice, & Institutions

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 5.26.06 PMTo the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care is the recently published book by Cris Beam that offers a layered, multi-faceted, and poignant exploration of New York City’s Foster Care System by focusing on the lives of the children and their families — both bio and foster — who are deeply affected by institutional and system-wide policies and practices. Beam writes based on her research — for this book, she spent five years interviewing and spending time with foster families — and from personal experience and positions the texts as an attempt to better understand why, despite the “more than a million adults [who] are directly or indirectly employed to ensure [foster children’s] well-being, and $15 to $20 billion a year [that] are poured into overseeing their health and management,” no one thinks the system is working. Beam’s book does not offer neat solutions. Instead, her rich descriptions and thoughtful prose offer different points of entry into the seemingly entrenched set of challenges that affect the people caught in the system at every level. Read the first chapter of the book here.

 Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal Explorations with Youth is a volume edited by YMEJ member Lalitha Vasudevan and Tiffany DeJaynes and brings together a collection of chapters authored by practitioners and researchers who worked with youth in a variety of arts-based and media settings. Central to all of the chapters is an emphasis on how, through exploration with the arts and media, young people involved with the juvenile justice system may be engaged as agentive partners in reimagining education in their lives. Ranging from photography and theater to media making and creative writing, the contexts depicted in this volume hold important implications for educators, the field of youth development, and policy makers in how we might better support young people who find themselves embroiled court-involved — the thoughtful and illustrative writings of the authors suggests that rather than emphasizing punitive measures, we might create conditions in which exploration of self and world may occur in meaningful, collaborative, and potentially transformative ways.

(**All proceeds from book sales go to supporting the work of alternative to detention and alternative to incarceration programs in New York City. ***)

Youth Making Change Across the Country

Wonderful list of youth-led groups and programs originally tweeted by @prisonculture, organized below by state and city (where possible). For another list of youth-led, school-reform initiatives, check out this list by What Kids Can Do: Youth Organizing for school reform 

If you know of other youth-led social change efforts that should be added to this list, please leave a comment below with any relevant information.

California

School of Unity & Liberation (SOUL) (Oakland, CA) – supporting the development of a new generation of organizers rooted in a systemic change analysis -especially people of color, young women, queer and transgender youth and low-income people.

Youth Together out of Oakland (Oakland, CA) – address the root causes of educational inequities by developing multiracial youth leaders and engaging school community allies to promote positive school change.

Youth Justice Coalition (Los Angeles, CA) – youth-led movement mobilizing community-based action against youth criminalization.

The Center for Young Women’s Empowerment (San Francisco, CA) – supporting young and adult women in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Florida

Dream Defenders (FL) – training and organizing youth and students to create a sustainable network focused on creating real change in their commmunities.

Illinois 

Chicago Freedom School (Chicago, IL) – creating new generations of critical and independent thinking young people by providing training and education opportunities for youth and adult allies to develop leadership skills through the lens of civic action and through the study of the history of social movements and their leaders.

Chicago Students Union (Chicago, IL) – Voices of Chicago Public School students and parents.

Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) (Chicago, IL) – works to nurture young people’s visions for change ; member of STOP Chicago: Southside Together Organizing for Power.

Immigrant Youth Justice League (Chicago, IL) – led by undocumented organizers working towards full recognition of the rights and contributions of all immigrants. (Follow: @IYJL)

Mikva Challenge Juvenile Justice Council (Chicago, IL) – finding new ways to support youth re-entry and civic leadership after incarceration. (Follow: @MCJJustice)

The Young Women’s Empowerment Project (Chicago, IL) – offering safe, respectful, judgment-free spaces for girls and young women in the sex trade and street economies to recognize their goals, dreams and desires.

Kentucky

The STAY Project (Stay Together Appalachian Youth) (Kentucky) – a diverse regional network of young people throughout Central Appalachia who are working together to advocate for and actively participate in their home mountain communities.

Louisiana 

BreakOUT (New Orleans, LA) – fighting the criminalization of LGBTQGNC youth

Reflect & Strengthen (Boston, MA) – a grassroots collective of young working class women from the urban neighborhoods of Boston who take a holistic approach to organizing to create personal and social transformation.

Michigan

Detroit Summer (Detroit, MI) – transforming communities through youth leadership, creativity and collective action.

Mississippi

Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition (MS) –  working to protect Mississippi students from harassment and discrimination. (Follow: @MSSafeSchools)

New Mexico 

Young Women United (NM) –  community organizing project by and for young women of color in New Mexico.

New York

FIERCE NY (New York, NY) – building the leadership and power of (LGBTQ) youth of color in New York City.

Make the Road NY (New York, NY) – builds the power of Latino and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, transformative education, and survival services.

NY Students Rising (NY) – statewide student movement in New York’s public universities. (Follow: @nystudentsrise)

NYS Youth Leadership Council (New York, NY) – First undocumented youth led organization in NY, working on passing the @NYDreamAct. (Follow: @NYSYLC)

Safe & Streetwise (New York, NY) – fighting criminalization of youth (particularly LGBTQGNC)

Rockaway Youth Task Force (Rockaway, NY) – empowering youth through civic engagement & volunteer opportunities and seeking to spark social change in the Rockaways through youth leadership.

Desis Rising Up and Moving (Queens, NY) – mobilizing and building the leadership of thousands of low-income, South Asian immigrants to lead social and policy change that impacts their own lives–from immigrant rights to education reform, civil rights, and workers’ justice.

Ohio

Ohio StudentAssociation (OH) – fighting for educational justice across Ohio. (Follow: @OHIOStudents)

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Student Union (Philadelphia, PA) – build the power of young people to demand a high quality education in the Philadelphia public school system.

Youth United for Change (Philadelphia, PA) – youth-led, democratic organization made up of youth of color and working class communities to hold school officials and government accountable to meeting the educational needs of Philadelphia public school students.

Rhode Island

Providence Youth Student Movement (RI) – mobilizing Southeast Asian youth into community organizing campaigns to foster healing and dialogue and build support and love for those who are isolated and marginalized.

Wisconsin

Urban Underground (Milwaukee, WI) –  youth leadership development organization that engages youth in bold and life changing opportunities to address the most pressing problems facing them and their communities through  youth development, academic enrichment, and civic engagement.

Righting (and re-writing) portrayals of court-involved youth through media/ted representations

In the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out digital publications produced by first group of YMEJ grad students, culminating in a digital anthology — all of the pieces were shared as part of an exhibition called “Let’s Start Something: Reframing Perspectives on Youth, Justice, and Educationand early this autumn we’ll publish the complete anthology online.

As a preview, here are a few pieces from the collection:

1.anak ng new york”  — by Alexandra Thomas
Click on panels to reveal more layers of information, context, facts, and resources

From the author:

Anak ng New York is a project designed to give alternate views on care and young people in the Foster Care System in New York City. “Anak ng” means “children of,” or colloquially, “son or daughter of” in Tagalog. The homepage of this website provides a single, and perhaps the most stark, view of foster care in NYC. There is a tick mark for each of the 13,000 young people currently in the system. However, behind each panel is another view. There are resources, narratives, poetry, and artwork, which exemplify the diverse and complicated ways in which we can understand foster care and the lives of the young people within the system.


1a.
Click on the 4th panel on the 1st row for a compilation of responses from adults who work at various points along the foster care landscape in support and in service of foster youth: Top Ten Questions And Answers for Future Involvement with Foster Care Youth” — produced by David Gajer.


2.  Those Unspoken Truths
 — by Sonja Cherry-Paul and Ellen Chan

From the authors:

Those Unspoken Truths is a collaborative project that merges poetry and photography and explores ways youth would like to be known. We see the exploration of photography, the asking of the question “who am I?”, as well as the responses, as initial steps toward creating a platform for discussion and inquiry around the ways we come to know youth and the ways in which youth let themselves be known.

In Hawaii: Building networks of support for foster youth

The informative blog kept up by the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (@NE_Children) recently shared a video produced by the Epic Ohana organization about initiatives being undertaken in Hawaii to support youth in their foster care system (watch film below).

The video centers on the idea of social capital, which has been illustrated in the form of four vignettes that correspond to each of the four colored puzzles pieces: Family, School, Community, and Peers.

soccap

Social capital is a concept that has its roots in social theory, largely associated  in social sciences with the musings and writings of Pierre Bourdieu, and plays on the economic definitions of capital, or simply: assets, wherein different assets can gain you varied access (and thus power) in a given situation or circumstance. Social capital, therefore, calls attention to the (varying) value embedded in the social networks with which we are associated. (And for those social capital scholars out there, this is, of course, a gross oversimplification.)

Epic Ohana’s short film highlights the importance of increasing and strengthening the social networks of foster youth so that their family, community, peer, and school networks are not waning but rather are robust and reliable sources of capital: human capital, cultural capital, etc.

What is always most compelling to me, however, is the simultaneous awareness of youth of the significance of the social networks they belong to for their own sense of self and the oftentimes inability to know how to leverage the tremendous assets found in those social networks to sustain their future trajectories. I suspect part of the reason for the latter is that for too long young people’s social networks have been vilified rather than seen as a source of strength or as rich wells of what Luis Moll, Norma Gonzalez, and others have long referred to as “funds of knowledge.”

But that’s enough chatter — you probably just want to watch the video (just over 9 minutes long, and full of young people’s voices — not one of those talking head films):

 

 

Youth speaking about Stop and Frisk — Views from the reluctant experts

Last year, the broader public got an in-depth and disturbing glimpse into the actions and behaviors of the network of law enforcement individuals involved with enforcing Stop and Frisk practices in New York City when a young man named Alvin recorded what he described as one of the countless times he was stopped in the vicinity of his own neighborhood — his recording captures his second stop in the same day.

Ross Tuttle, a contributor to The Nation, expanded Alvin’s courageous and revealing audio into 13 minute short film called “The Hunted and the Hated: An Inside Look at the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy” in which he surrounds Alvin’s audio recording with interviews of current and former NYPD officers, legal experts, and, perhaps most effecting, Alvin and other young people themselves for whom this is not merely a policy but an everyday fact of life.

Tuttle’s film opens with a general shot of a street in Harlem, and a few seconds later settles into this image in which he sets up the film:

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 10.41.48 AM

This short film, innumerable personal accounts and protestation across a variety of media platforms of this policy, the ongoing battle between law enforcement brass who support this policy and the communities they serve (for whom safety is paramount, but whether this policy actually helps to achieve it remains questionable)… all of these factors have also been brought into the harsh light of everyday conversation with the ongoing trial that brings into direct question the NYPD’s commitment to stop and frisk as a way of policing.

Watch the full film here:

Just today, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin found that the city “adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data.”

The article in the NYTimes goes on to note:

Noting that the Supreme Court had long ago ruled that stop-and-frisks were constitutionally permissible under certain conditions, the judge stressed that she was “not ordering an end to the practice of stop-and-frisk. The purpose of the remedies addressed in this opinion is to ensure that the practice is carried out in a manner that protects the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, while still providing much needed police protection.”

So where is the line of reconciliation? That is, where is the meeting ground between complete repeal of the policy and its continuation in its present state? This presumes of course that the desire on behalf of law enforcement is to protect communities from a persistent influx of weapons and violence, which is purportedly the intention behind what has become an increasingly polarizing law enforcement policy. Tuttle’s film and Alvin’s recording, however, make it difficult to believe that serving and protecting is at the root of the way that the policy is carried out everyday. Young people (too many of whom live their everyday lives under “suspicion” before the sun has even risen) and the communities in which they live shouldn’t exist in a constant state of fear.

This is the simple point poignantly presented by Kasiem Walters, a high school senior in Flatbush, Brooklyn, in another short film called, “Stop-and-Frisk: The High School Senior,” part of the #whereiamgoing campaign. What comes through most evocatively in Walters’ narrative is the psychic weight he and his friends carry with them constantly, being stopped, having his possessions tossed on the ground, his pockets searched by grown adults — he notes that one wouldn’t understand this if it happens one time or as an isolated but rationalizable experience. No, one needs to experience being stopped, questioned, violated, treated in dehumanizing ways 6, 7, 10, a dozen, more than twenty times. For Kasiem, this experience began at the age of 13.

I have seen this same weight press down hard on the shoulders of many of young people we work with through this project and the Reimagining Futures Project at local alternative to incarceration and detention programs. It is the weight of suspicion that saturates their interactions, how they move, who they speak with — these considerations and more are movingly brought to life in young Kasiem’s story. Watch him here:

 

Finally, read Linda Sankat, another NYC teen, detail her #stopandfrisk experience in a piece written for Youth Communication/YC Teen. In it, she wonders:

But what is “reasonable suspicion?” The NYPD has interpreted it broadly. CCR tallied the NYPD’s own records and found that 685,724 people were stopped in 2011—the vast majority of whom were black and Latino. Nearly nine out of 10 of those subjected to stop-and-frisk were not arrested.

Although Mayor Michael Bloomberg credits the policy with lowering crime and keeping guns off the streets, it has a detrimental effect on innocent people who feel targeted because of their race, class, religion, sexual orientation, gender, identity, or housing status. Critics say many stops are unlawful because they are too often based on stereotypes rather than real suspicion or evidence of wrongdoing.

Sankat also mentions young Alvin’s recording and offers some of her analysis of what he captured and what his recording sparked, not only amongst teens who know this experience all too well, but also among those for whom such practices remained largely hidden until recently. Just before concluding her piece with a call to arms to her fellow teens to speak out against this policy, Linda Sankat states plainly: “The job of the police should be to protect the public—not harass innocent people.”

What could be more true?

These are three of a vast sea of stories, encounters, and experience. Follow us on twitter (@YMediaJustice) where we’ll continue to share more young people’s stories in an effort to interrupt injustice and to educate beyond mere actions of agreement or disagreement. The issues wrapped up with #stopandfrisk are far too complicated for simple solutions. One step in the right direction, we believe, is to take the stories of youth seriously.

Follow @txtconnectNYC on Twitter — and read more about their work in engaging youth to report instances of #stopandfrisk
Follow #whereamigoing on Twitter
Learn more about the movement here: http://www.whereiamgoing.org/
Follow @changetheNYPD on Twitter

 

%d bloggers like this: