This word plays a pretty important role in the mission statement of Ayuda and the Community Arts Program as well (as stated in an August post). The art programs are developing the creativity that already exists here in Hunting Park and providing a way for that creativity to be expressed. And the overarching goal is this word: Transformation. What needs to be transformed? I was talking to my parents yesterday and they were again attacked by the media as the nightly news had some story about North Philadelphia and the intense violence and poverty that rules the streets. My parents have been here on my block in Hunting Park and know that life here is a mixed bag: true sorrow and tragedy side-by-side with true joy. I had a piece of that on Friday at work and wanted to share.
While Ryan and I were working on a grant proposal, a fight broke out right outside our door. It was Ameere and another little guy (they are probably both 8 or 9) and they were really going at it. Daquan stepped in and broke it up then I walked Ameere home to keep them apart. Daquan is a boy who lives 2 doors down from our community center; he makes daily visits. He loves Ryan. They build model cars together and Ryan takes him along on lunches and such. He's a great kid; he's also spending time at Boone, a disciplinary school, b/c he was kicked out of the local school. He struggles; life is challenging. He's been coming to the Alpha meetings at our church for several years and now he is a helper. I was asking him on Friday, "Why do you think Ameere fights?" I worry about Ameere. He and I worked pretty closely when I did the first mosaic in Hunting Park around the doorway to Ayuda. He was there every day in the cold w/ me and we laughed a lot. It's not just that he fights alot. He beats kids up pretty bad. I had my neighbors bring a young boy to me who was pretty bloody and they told me it was Ameere. He's so young that it feels odd to say so, but I'm afraid he's on his way to prison. Daquan told me that Ameere fights to prove to his older brothers that he's not a punk. I said, "You know Daquan, I don't hear about you fighting much at all." He said, "I used to, but I don't anymore." I asked him why and he said quickly, "Because I'm changing."
There it is. I told Daquan that Ameere needs his help; he needs to see other options than just fighting your way through life w/ your fists. About 5 minutes later, Daquan shows back up w/ Ameere and told him that I wanted to talk to him. It was so hard to talk to him; he quickly climbs nearly up on my lap and I feel so much love for his little life and such weight at what is facing him every day in HP. The quote I put in the margin "Violence and addiction reveals a lack of imagination" came from the Arts in Criminal Justice Conference. I want my days to be about work that exercises imagination in an effort to see the possibility of transformation.