Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Reminder of Why We Do What We Do

It’s a beautiful day in Burbank at the Warner Bros. studio lot. As we walk with mentees towards the main entrance for their one-on-one mentoring session with employees from Warner Bros., we pass by a big group of devoted fans waiting to get into the Ellen DeGeneres Show. It’s quite the scene to see so many excited audience members anxiously waiting to get in.

We cross the street and wait for the other half of the mentees to meet us. As we wait, the mentees begin to get comfortable by leaning on the rail or just engaging in several different conversations. Some of the young people begin to raise their voices as their conversations get exciting and we kindly remind them to be conscious of their surroundings. After a short while of waiting, a Warner Bros. employee comes out and tells us to wait across the street because we are congesting the main entrance and we are disrupting other employees.

His reasoning was completely understandable. It is not often you see a group of black and brown teenagers at Warner Bros. studios and for many, it can be intimidating to have to cross paths with them. Although I’m sure he did not have negative intentions, I wonder if he knew what that message sounded like to those young people. The black and brown young people who have the privilege to visit the Warner Bros. are also the same young people who are constantly followed inside convenience stores; they’re the same ones who are silenced by teachers and administrators; and more importantly, they’re the same young people who society tells “you do not belong.” The man’s message was clear and made complete sense, but because of the delivery, it was just another reminder that these young people just do not belong in that space.

The opportunity that Warner Bros. gives these young people is amazing. Ultimately, they are allowing them into the world of corporate entertainment. Instead of getting the message that they don’t belong there, they get “welcome, and how can we see you (and help you see yourself) in a more positive way”.  Indeed, the mentors in the program see the mentees and all the gifts they carry. Now, how do we as conscious individuals help others see young people in a positive light the way their mentors at Warner Bros.? My only response to that is to keep doing the work that we do. Only then can the change happen and perhaps others will join us.

Hmm. I wonder if we can invite that guard to sit in on one of our sessions.


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