Juvie Jamz

Every week at work we go into the juvenile detention center and do a one hour art or writing workshop with youth there. It’s a great way to briefly spare them from boredom and recruit kids that are interested in participating in our programs once they’re out of detention. Sometimes it’s fantastic. The kids are engaged and happy to be there. Other weeks feel like disasters. The past couple weeks we’ve been expanding on the idea of home. We’ve encouraged them to come up with similes and metaphors for home. To think about what home is or where home is. To explore unique ways of describing where they come from. For one person it’s grandma’s house. For another it’s the basketball court. Or Chester’s Chicken. Or the neighborhood park. Or Liberia. After hearing/reading what emerged,Β it felt good to know that everyone could at least think of some place or someone that felt like home, even if the connotations weren’t great. On the other hand, my heart still sank into my gut. It’s hard to wrap my head around these homes I’ve never entered. But I think what they write exposes a lot. I learn a lot about them and where their heads are at without having to outright ask them and without them having to outright tell me. There’s this strange paradox I see of kids having to grow up way too fast, but never actually growing up. I’m not sure if that came out right or makes sense. Anyway…here’s an example (from a kid who wouldn’t perform his rap in front of me because he said my ears were too precious):

I come from a broken home, shattered dreams and stained mildew floors

Crawling around on all fours in my drawers

My dad always high like my ambitions to grow and survive

I went from not knowing when I’d eat to having so much, I’d throw away half my plate

I went from a rental property to a place I’d learn to call home

My dad smoked so much meth, he done lost his dome

But my mom, cold as stone, took me away and said he’d have to live on his own

Not always the best, my whole life’s been a test

I’d have to learn a lot of things on my own because my dad left me

On Father’s Day I used to cry

I’d wish death upon my dad in my own eyes

Through all the deception, all the lies, he left a son who would have to find his own will to strive and survive