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Our top 10 posts of 2013
We started blogging late this summer and over the course of the past several months, the YMEJ Project Team has been joined by some members of the current cohort of YMEJ graduate students in contributing to this blog. They are:
- Emily Bailin
- Nicole Blandford
- Emeline Brylinski
- Katie Newhouse
- Laura Vernikoff
- Kelly Gavin Zuckerman
Click on their avatars (to the right, over there…) to read additional posts by them and stay tuned for more from us in 2014.
Collectively, we are educators, researchers, community members, adults in the lives of youth, and committed to the wellbeing of young people across multiple institutions; what has brought us together through the YMEJ Seminar, in particular, is our shared interest in better understanding the various contours and nuances of the lives, institutional navigations, challenges, possibilities, educational trajectories, dreams, and desires of young people involved with the foster care and/or juvenile justice system.
Below is a list of posts that seemed to catch your attention over the past several months. Check them out, pass them on, and feel free to suggest additional topics and resources for us to learn and blog about.
- Engaging Youth as Active Participants In/For Social Change: a teaser for YMEJ Member Tara Conley’s presentation for the Racial Literacy Roundtable Series at Teachers College, Columbia University on the creative and socially engaged approach to participatory design in justice-focused work with youth.
- Youth speaking about Stop and Frisk — Views from the reluctant experts: 2013 saw significant attention being given to the NYPD’s policy of “stop and frisk,” intended as a public safety measure but having serious consequences for the mostly Black and Latino male inhabitants of NYC who were disproportionately the focus of this practice. In a related post, Emeline depicts similar challenges that are ongoing in her native France surrounding racial profiling.
- The treatment of children is the focus of this next post, titled Pondering Child Homelessness in the Wake of Dasani, that builds from Andrea Elliot’s widely read 5-part series in the New York Times last month and presents a series of additional resources and connections. We — meaning the YMEJ team — are continuing to ponder this narrative and all the author was able to reveal about child welfare, city policies, and the persistent challenges of poverty through her in-depth profile of this young, 11-year-old girl. We hope to have more to say in the coming weeks and months.
- Another view of our nation’s treatment of children was profiled in the post focusing on child hunger: “Hunger hurts everyone” – A Place at the Table. We include information about the recent cuts to SNAP, links to a PBS special about child hunger and a related documentary, and highlight a university-community partnership headed by Mariana Chilton in an effort to interrupt the effects of poverty and hunger while also aiming to provide research that may catalyze changes to the policies that govern funding decisions at the local, state, and federal levels.
- In addition to Dasani, our imaginations were captured by two young men who were in the news: Avonte Oquendo and Davion Navar Henry Only. In their respective posts, Katie and Nicole raise important questions about how we see and understand the stories of youth enmeshed into large, impersonal bureaucratic systems, and about the ways in which their lives are represented and mediated. Of Avonte, we continued to hear that he was an autistic child who had gone missing and about Davion, we continued to read about the public plea he made in search of a family. Check out both of these posts to learn more about the young men and the institutional structures their situations call into question:
- We were grateful for a collaboration that sprung out of a twitter connection with @PrisonCulture, who, back in August, tweeted a series of youth-led change-making efforts going on nationwide. We compiled these resources into a handy list, and received additional recommendations via the blog and twitter that were also added: Youth Making Change Across the Country. This is just a drop in the bucket, and in 2014 we plan to profile several more organizations and groups who are working tirelessly to “be the change [they] wish to see in the world.”
- In addition to the above list of youth-led efforts, we also learned of institutional and community-based efforts to strengthen the lives of youth across settings, in the form of mentoring, higher education, and arts-infused activism. Learn more about these efforts in these posts:
- Finally, our attention was captivated by a book released earlier this year by author Cris Beam, who details the experiences of children and families ensnared in the child welfare and foster care system in her book “To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care.” Reading her book took our own inquiries about care, family, home, and institutions to a variety of places and resources, which we have gathered in our post: Neverending “June” — Or: The burden of care
There you have it — our top 10 (ok, if you were really counting, I snuck in a few more than 10…) posts from 2013. Thanks for being a great audience and we look forward to sharing more thoughts and dialogue with you in the year to come.
Wishing you a healthy, safe, and inspired 2014!
The YMEJ Team.
Racial Profiling as a Vicious Circle
“In a culture that promises equality but delivers hierarchy, everyone is risk rich, everyone a victim and a perpetrator.”
(Mc Dermott, et al., 2009, p.103)
We cannot talk about youth media and educational justice without pointing out the unbalanced authority and power owned by men in uniform. As it is the case in many countries, ID control based on appearance, often labeled “racial profiling” or “stop and frisk,” is a plague. Some communities are facing this struggle everyday, and consequently develop hostile feelings toward police who do not appear to be protective but to be oppressive.
In France, a magistrate once said: “We don’t realize that this is the ID control itself that provokes crimes. At first, we have a person who did nothing; he was not supposed to be controlled and ID-checked, but then, at the end of the day, he is pursued by justice for a crime directly incited because of the ID control.” (Bonelli, 2003, p.40)
– Black people are 6 times more likely to be controlled than a white person. – North-Africans are 8 times more likely to be controlled. – Youth are 7.9 times more likely to be controlled than adults.
On this topic, the Open Society Foundation started to research and advocate against racial profiling in France. They made a video, Equality Betrayed: The Impact of Ethnic Profiling in France, that voiced the narrative of French people who cannot count anymore the number of times they have been arrested because of their skin colors. (View the video at the end of this post; click on YouTube’s closed captioning for English subtitles.)
Stop and Frisk in France, as well as here and in many other countries, raises never-ending issues. In this atmosphere, only fear dominates. This is a fear from both sides: from the youth and from the police. A loss of trust, from both sides.
This fact raises many more questions: when are we going to exit the vicious circle that puts youth labeled “at-risk” at risk? How can educational technology help us to rethink unequal relationships of power in democracy? How can creative media production link police’s narratives as oppressed and oppressor with court-involved youths’ narratives of oppressor and oppressed?
Bonelli, L. 2003. Une vision policière de la société, In Manière de voir 71. Le Monde Diplomatique, October-November 2003.
McDermott, R., Raley, J. D., Seyer-Ochi, I. (2009). Race and Class in a Culture of Risk. Review Of Research In Education, 33(1), 101-116. Retrieved from: http://rre.sagepub.com/content/33/1/101
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:
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