Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Facing Down the Demons of Injustice

Last night, I met with a group of homeless and transitional-living teenagers. They, and their families, were being provided for by an agency I mentioned in my previous posting. I attended their youth drop-in center/focus group.

One young man spoke about his experiences in school and in the local neighborhood. He felt that he was being stereotyped and scapegoated, although he did not use those terms.

He described the anger and indignation he felt when he and his friends were singled out by police officers due to their race and clothing.

He was upset that, just as he was trying to work hard to raise his grades at school because his goal is to ultimately go to college, the school administrators were also emphasizing clothing. Specifically, the colors red and blue are now forbidden, due to gang-related concerns.

Another young woman talked about her biological father. When she was younger, he had abused her. Her father had not provided for her. He did not regularly visit her, but when he did, he tried to assert his authority. When she was three years old, he had tried to cut ties with her permanently... and it was obvious that that his rejection still hurt her deeply.

What struck me about both of these young teenagers was that, in their minds, they were facing down the demons of injustice. Shouldn't academic progress be more important than clothing? Shouldn't a father love his daughter?

Another thing that struck me was that there was no place on earth that I would rather be...

I told the young man that he had choices. He was facing prejudice, perhaps even racism. Would he react with the anger of Malcolm X or the stubborn but law-abiding conviction of Martin Luther King?

What were his choices?
-Stay and fight the school administration over clothing issues?
-Transfer to another school, which might support his academic progress?
-Study on his own, and acquire his GED?

Because, he did have choices, he did have power and (thanks to this wonderful organization) he did have support.

I told the young woman that she was worth something. It's easier to feel loveable if you are loved. It's easier to feel valued if you are valued.

But this intelligent, articulate young woman, only 12 years old, has tremendous value that has not yet been recognized. One day, a man might meet her and fall in love with her. One day, she might build a family. When those things happen, she will feel loved. She will feel valuable.

But she is no less valuable right now.

Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) is a program that emphasizes:
1.) Housing
2.) Education
3.) Civic engagement

They provide community services:
1.) Community ownership
2.) Community awareness
3.) Advocacy

Their website is: http://www.cohhio.org/yep/

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Comments:
Lisa-
Thanks for your insightful blog as always.
We have a chapter of Covenant House here in Houston. One day, I stopped at a gas station not even a mile from Covenant House, and the store owner put a BIG sign on the front door saying, "NO MORE THAN ONE STREET KID IN STORE AT A TIME".

Huh. I was like, wow. If he had blatantly discriminated against *any* other group like that, people would be screaming all over the five O'clock news!

I was miffed.
 
What a great ministry you have!
You planted very important seeds at that meeting! I will pray for the harvest!

Diane
 
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