Wednesday, September 23, 2009


As I get ready in the morning I put on the local news, primarily as background noise and to figure out what the weather is going to be so I know what cute outfit to put on for the day. And without fail there is a report on a shooting, or a horrible crime to which my heart clenches at the sound of… “God, please don’t let it be one of my kids”. Fortunately, most of the time, I can exhale in relief, but sometimes, the pain lingers.

Yesterday was one of those morning where the pain stayed with me. At the sound of “Police raided the Avenues gang…” the blood drained from my face, “ 1400 arrested in the sweep…” my heart began to race as the faces of the mentees in our program began flashing through my mind. “Congratulations to the LAPD for a job well done….” I feel sick. Once again my kids are nothing more than statistics and labels; a nuisance to be disposed.

That night, in the neighborhood where the raid had happened, we held our session. There was a lot of frenetic energy, and palpable tension, I knew we had to address it… I don’t claim to understand what it must be like to have to live under constant fear and anger, so I stumbled at my attempt to reach out. There was silence. I looked at Leslie, my amazing colleague, knowing she could break through, this is her neighborhood too, and she knew some of the young men who had been taken in. Her question was simple. “Who here has been bothered by the police?” Almost all their hands went up. “Did any of you know anyone who got picked up?” Little Jorge, raised his hand and told us the story of they were woken up at 4:30 in the morning by police who took his step dad into custody. “That must have been scary” I said. He nodded.

Cynthia raised her hand – “ A cop hit me in school once” “Did you report him?” we asked, “Yeah, but nothing happened, because the vice principal was standing right there when he did it, and denied it” Fortunately she doesn’t go to that school any more.

“Is anyone angry? I know I am” I said feeling my face flush. “Hey Miss, why are you angry?” a small voice asked. “I am angry that we have done such a crappy job at protecting you. I am angry that it isn’t safe for you to walk to school in the morning. I am angry that you have become a news story without a face. I am angry that our society feels good when others fall.”

I am angry because there will be many more raids in this and other communities, and that what we do will be more needed than ever.


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