Wherefore Art Thou Richmond

What?

  1. Aspirational Capital: For a lot of the youth in the film, the creative process was how they created their hopes and dreams. Donte talked about how he thought he wouldn’t even make it past 18 and I feel that could be true for many of the students in the documentary. The arts could have been the only thing keeping them alive. It was a time that they could dedicate themselves fully to their craft without fear for their lives or judgement from their peers. It was a place where they would be able to be fully themselves and not feel like they had to hold any part of themselves back. Some of the challenges that the youth face are as elementary as walking to and from school. Denise talks about how she and her friends have been sexualized just walking on the side of the road. The young men in the film also recall having to be careful where they walk and who they talk to because a person can never know if someone else is out to kill them or to let off steam from something traumatic. On top of that, a logistical challenge that they had to face was even getting a room to hold their poetry slams in. If Molly wasn’t there, it could have been much more difficult to get a facilitator to help the youth have a safe space and a place where they could express themselves. These challenges contribute to their hopes and dreams because they can often cloud what they hope for. Living to 18 could have been a hope that they had, but on top of that, breaking stereotypes and changing their future could be an aspiration. Without something as simple as a room to be in after school or someone looking out for them, they might not have ever had the opportunity to find out what their dreams were or how to accomplish them.

3. Social Capital: I think there is a lot to be said for communal suffering. In no way do I condone the injustices that are happening to these people, nor do I feel that the mass murders and homicides are good. However, the fact that they are all in it together contributes to the idea of community and definitely keeps them all connected. Even though they are going through such difficult experiences, they have each other to lean on and grow with in the process. In no way is it an easy thing to go through, but they can learn together and grow as a unit within their communities. A lot of them seem to be interested in similar things (arts, sports, etc.) and this allows them to further their academic experiences and learning opportunities within the subgroups that they are all interested in. It is important that the youth build up a great deal of social capital to confront the challenges that they face because no one should have to go through the challenges alone. I know that personally when I experienced loss within my family, I leaned on my immediate family for a great deal of time in order to get through it. If the youth didn’t have each other to lean on they could give up and be overtaken by pain, anger, and depression much easier. Two cords are stronger than one and together the youth are much more capable to deal with the pain of life if they have a friend.

So What?

Most of these stories are vastly different from my story. I can identify with being sexualized just walking down the street. 1) Just the other day, a friend and I were walking down Fourth Street and we noticed that people were calling out to us multiple times and just making us feel uncomfortable all the way around. 2) I cannot comprehend feeling unsafe walking to school in the morning as I was raised in a small town in Southern California and this is where our stories differ. 3) I’ve never been stereotyped as someone that could spend time in prison for simply walking into a grocery store. I can wear what I want without fear of offending a gang or even being pursued by the police. These two ways make my narrative different from theirs.

Now What?

It is imperative that all voices be heard in a working democracy so that the needs of one people group are not overlooked by another. It would be easy for a Legislator in Sacramento to create a law to be enacted in Richmond, however, they don’t know exactly what’s happening there from their homes in Sacramento. The people of Richmond must be able to speak for themselves for the change that they need and want to see happen in their communities. This extends past a thin democracy because it is complex and ever expanding. You cannot give a blanket term to democracy in Richmond, if there is any at all. The people need to decide what they think is best for their community as they are the ones living in it and then we need to allow that change to happen from the inside out.

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