Richmond and Romeo

Donte Clark provides an immense outlook on the lives of Richmond’s youth. For many of them, a life passed 18 years old is an achievement. Many of them have faced adversities that many of us will never come across. Living in a city filled with gang and gun violence can shape how a young person thinks and lives their lives. I feel as though the students in this documentary had to shape their lives around what was going on around them. Young girls were often “catcalled” while walking down the street and young men were often arrested due to gang violence. I think this challenges the youth because they fail to be understood because they are often stereotyped. As the years passed, this has created a certain lifestyle and thinking for Richmond’s youth. Although the police have the intention of making Richmond a safer place, I feel like the root problem has to be identified and solved to pave a way for change. Being a part of this lifestyle, Donte felt that he needed to give these teens and young adults a place where they can be themselves and grow outside of their homes and schools. The RAW talent program allows students to voice their feelings of frustration, concerns, and anger through art rather than violence.

Being born into this lifestyle has forced these students to find ways to survive and thrive in Richmond. For Donte, living in Richmond has not been easy. He has lost many of his closest friends and family to gun violence. Although this is infuriating, Donte chose to react in a different way compared to what others in his community might do. Instead of going out for blood, he made a choice to change the cycle. The program Donte provides for the students also gives them an outlet to navigate outside of the violence of around them. This allows them to express themselves in a safe environment. Being able to let go of these emotions creates a space for these students to stop and think before acting or speaking. As Donte stated, “Love is an action.” I think this shows how Donte and his students have come to the understanding that some things are going to stay the same and that they should be the change in a community filled with hate.

For many of us, the challenges Donte and the students live through every day are some we will never come across. As I compare my life to the students in the documentary, there are more differences than similarities. Unlike Richmond, I live in the small town of Alameda. I feel as though we live in two completely different worlds because of how different our everyday lives are. There are only rare occurrences of gun or gang violence. I have never experienced losing a loved one to gun violence, my mother was not in an abusive relationship, and I don’t have to worry about walking down the street at night. This film has made me realize how different life is outside my little bubble of Alameda. Although we have different lives, we live in the society and that had a big impact on me.

While watching this film, I realized how market driven our society is. The city of Richmond cares more about statistics than the lives of their own youth. I think it’s important people’s voices to be heard because they’re the ones living in these cities. Knowing what the people want is crucial because if those needs aren’t met, how are people supposed to survive? In a market driven democracy, these people are just seen as numbers. To big corporations like Chevron, it doesn’t matter whether the asthma rate is double the national average or if more homicides occur near their plant, all they care about is money. It’s important to hear what the people who live in Richmond, especially the youth, have to say because they’re the future of this society.