This Saturday, November 2nd, on Dia Del Muertos we will unveil the Community Hope Wall mural at Vinny’s Bakery in the Pasco School District Booth building parking lot. We have over 30 vendors and 10 speakers, including Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins, who will give a proclamation declaring a new holiday that we are calling Pasco Day of Hope.
Pasco Day of Hope is a holiday that aims to raise awareness of community needs, promotes compassion for and value of all people, to uplift youth voices and to teach our children to have hope. We have invited everyone in the community to be a part of this special day.
For a good part of the last decade, I’ve been mentoring kids in the Benton Franklin Juvenile Justice Center, and in schools that are typically free and reduced lunch schools. I mentor the poverty stricken youths of our community; the overlooked, the unheard, the misunderstood and the broken. All of the horrific crimes that people read about or hear about from any of our local news outlets, the shootings and the murders, chances are if it involved a younger person, I have had them in my class.
When I read the comments section of social media news (which is rare) and I hear the negative opinions and perspectives towards our youth in lock-up, I understand. I’m not immune to fear, and some of the things the youth have done are so awful they terrify me. It is this fear and repulsion that causes people to lose heart, when that is what is most needed when facing these young people.
It’s not always easy but it is my duty to provide these students with the same respect and love as I would give any political dignitary or any person of any social status, and sometimes more when it’s needed. I understand exactly the level of desperation that oppression can inflict on anyone – especially our youth that come from absolutely nothing and have nothing to lose.
An African proverb comes to mind “A child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”
We seem to have entered an age where resentment and cold-shoulders on all bodies has replaced the idea of embracing one another. My friend once told me that kids join gangs for the very three things they’re not receiving at home: acceptance, protection, and love. If they can’t find it at home, they’ll find it wherever they can.
Kid’s listen to their friends; kids spell the word love, T I M E. Even if they know that a friend of theirs is in a gang and is risking their life and health, doing wrong, getting into trouble, the affection deficit that that vulnerable youth experiences will have them spending T I M E with and looking up to, and modeling themselves after those that give them the three aforementioned qualities; acceptance, protection and love. We see it day in and day out with our incarcerated youth.
Our Community Hope Wall project aims to not only embrace our youth, but everyone in the community.
Where does the whole spirit of this Community Hope Wall and Pasco Day of Hope come from?
Well, back in 2001, three days before I went to boot camp, I was baptized at my friend Maisha’s church under the blazing hot sun that beats down on Maricopa County in Arizona. Even though I don’t go to church, I have always tried to follow Jesus’s last commandment to love one another. I personally call it the impossible philosophy “to love as indiscriminately as the sun shines”. Every single one of us falls short of it, but if we’re falling we’re not failing – so it’s worth it.
The Juvenile Justice Center has been an exercise in that faith for me, it has taught me to practice this “impossible philosophy” on anyone that tempts me to do otherwise. It definitely backfires, and in today’s political-cultural atmosphere there are infinite nuances that I would love to cover here to illustrate how hard it is and why but that’s another article for another time.
Though I pray to Jesus, I honor and acknowledge all the walks of life in my community and for genuine reasons.
When times got hard in my life and I was homeless, my atheists friends opened up their doors to me and took me in, when I lost my mind and thought about taking my life, my Christian friends swooped in like a legion of angels and lifted me up, when I was hungry the Imam of our local Mosque gave me a box of pears and apples, and my Jewish friends opened up their Synagogue for the youth that I mentor to have a safe place to rehearse their poetry.
My friends in Native communities have taught me to open my heart even deeper and wider to the Creator and to expect miracles. My friends in the LGBTQ community have always shown up for me, I’ve always had their back and they’ll always have my full support. My very first mentor was a Kennewick Police Department Officer, and back in high school the whole department sent me to football camp, I can comfortably say that and say black lives matter and not feel a bit of conflict thanks to this “impossible philosophy”, to love.
The story behind the Community Hope Wall is one of faith, compassion, love and hope.
Despite all the forces that aim to drive us a part, I see people across all lines reaching back for one another – practicing forgiveness, failing at forgiveness, then trying again cause instinctively we all know it’s worth it, just not at the expense of our dignity and principles, but it is worth it.
So if you can love, you must. I’ll reiterate my friend Reagan Jackson’s proverb that “clenched fists do no building” I hope to see everyone this Saturday November 2nd and I do mean everyone, because it truly does take a village to restore hope.