This was my summer motto. I had the wonderful opportunity to work as a counselor/instructor for the Teens and Police Service Academy summer program. TAPS Academy is a non-profit organization that provides interactive learning programs to help reduce the social distance between teens and law enforcement. This organization meets at-risk youth right where they are in socially disadvantaged schools and detention facilities. The relevance of their work cannot be overstated. (Please click their link for more background and program information.)
We need practical ways to bridge that gap. We need people to fill that space with hope, love, and skills of empowerment.
I had the absolute pleasure and terror of facilitating empowerment lessons to nine males, ages 14-15 years old. Talking about a hard crowd to please. My jokes were outdated. My swag is rusty. But my candor seemed to be a respectable trait. Just tell the truth as you know it. And don’t forget that kids in jail are children too.
His business is his to keep…
I did not know the circumstances of why each young man was there in that dorm. I did not ask to know their crimes. As a matter of fact, if one tried to tell me about another I quickly shut that down with “That man didn’t ask you to tell nobody his business. His business is his to keep. I suggest you keep to yours.” Of course, some of the young men would tell me of their struggles in their journals or our group discussions and I welcomed that openness. Kids want to talk to people they trust, but it has to take place in an environment of emotional and physical safety. Without showing fear or doling out judgement, my only job was to listen and suggest coping tools.
What I learned was that kids in jail are just children. This was a “not-so-obvious” lesson. When you hear about property crimes, school threats, and teen violence, all you know is that the perpetrator needs to be locked up. They are to be held responsible for their crimes, whether ditching school, fighting, or stealing. They must learn that there are real life consequences for anti-social behavior. But I was not there as a judge or as part of a jury, I was just an instructor trying to give a handful of young men tools that they can use to avoid further troubles. And they taught me an important lesson too.
Boys will be boys…
Everyday my boys argued over games, complained about boredom, and begged for candy as rewards. Some would get mad and brood. Some would get sad and retreat. Under constant surveillance, expressing emotions was tightly controlled. So we talked at length about developing emotional intelligence. Learning the physiological response that your body has and connecting it to the correct emotions. Understanding that being sad and being mad can look the same if you do not know how to express sadness. Frustration and anticipation feel the same, so you must connect the “feeling” to the root to understand what reaction you are actually having.
This was a hard lesson. Here is my opening speech:
“In our society, the feelings of boys and men are dismissed and discarded. Happiness, joy, anxiety, anger, frustration, guilt, and fear are all human emotions, yet men and boys are only allowed to be either happy or angry. Do not allow society to strip away your humanity by numbing your range of emotion. Learn to know what you feel and why you feel it. This will make you a strong man, a supportive husband, and a loving father. Without emotions, you are only a paycheck for your family or for the state.” Even the guards nodded in agreement to that!
Everyday my boys had to resolve conflicts in their dorms. If a person was being released, the entire dorm went through a range of emotions. At first, everyone would be happy for the person, even helping them pack up their belongings. After a few hours of waiting, many of the other boys would “crash”. They would become sad, depressed, and/or angry. They wanted to go home too. If they were expecting a family visit that did not come through, this same cycle of emotions took place. It was not uncommon when these things happened that a fight would break out. Tensions were high and they struggled with what to do with all the emotions that they were experiencing.
Side Note: Don’t worry, my safety was never in jeopardy. The juvenile security officers were on their jobs! They always knew what was brewing in advance and who to look out for. They treated every situation with the upmost respect, authority, and compassion. And I’m no fool! I caught on quick!
I witnessed a young man graduate with his GED and no family showed up to the ceremony for support. The pain was unbearable. It was no surprise that later that night he got into a fight. He had nowhere to put his hurt. He responded like an abandoned child. Knowing these things happen, the program focused on teaching them skills to channeled their negative emotions through writing, group discussions, art, reading, and/or playing games. We worked on developing conflict resolution skills that could help move them a little closer to diffusing negative emotions in the moment. The residents did not do all of this willingly. Remember they are teenage boys. Oh they bickered through it all. I heard a lot of “he keeps interrupting me”, “he keeps trying to take over everything”, “he touched my puzzle”, and “he took the picture that I wanted”. Typical tattle-telling. And just like any teacher, I spent a lot of time redirecting us back to the task at hand. “Stop doing that.” “Don’t touch his paper.” “Everyone listen.” I felt like a parent of young children all over again. Sigh.
I used a variety of games for play therapy and team-building. My observation was that their maturity level stopped at the age that they may have experienced trauma or that their behavior turned delinquent. So even though they were 14 or 15, they behaved in many ways like they were 10 or 11. Activities in that age range let that inner-child out to play and let their emotional guards down for a few hours. They loved using the beach ball! They looked forward to Battleship tournaments. They really enjoyed the game of Clue. They hated worksheets, but they would do them anyway. Some liked journal prompts, but most liked to draw. Puzzles were a big hit! We made a lot of poster boards! Games and art opened our conversations up and helped them cope with difficult topics.
Bullies are homegrown…
You cannot talk about domestic violence without child abuse. You cannot talk about bullying without talking about domestic violence and child abuse. You cannot talk about the dangers of human trafficking without talking about victimization, domestic violence, and child abuse. There was not one child in my dorm that did not have personal experience with bullying/victimization, domestic violence and/or child abuse. They shared with me how some of their anti-social behavior was learned in their family, whether they were being groomed to be aggressive or as a bi-product of violence they witnessed.
100% of the time, the boys told me that bullies are homegrown. They are created by their environment. “Miss, if you follow a bully home I bet you’ll find a bigger bully.” One of them told me he was/is a bully. I asked him if he thought he learned it at home and he said “yeah, how else would I know how to get over on weaker people.” I am not going to debate whether their theory is true. They said it. I believe they had reasons and experiences that told them this was true. I was much more interested in what they thought the solution to bullying is.
A 15 year old, who had previously been found guilty of assault for intervening in a bully’s assault of another young man, gave me a very emotional response when we talked about our experiences with bullying. He told me that he got tired of seeing a “tough” guy pick on someone weak, so he jumped in to help the victim. The original victim refused to tell authorities that he had intervened on his behalf, because the victim was afraid of what would happen to him at school if he told the truth. This is the solution that my resident offered:
“Miss, they need to stop focusing on the bully. He’s already been beat into beating people, so he’s not finsta’ change. You gotta focus on the victims, because once you’re a target, you’re the target of the whole school. The bully. The teachers. Everybody cus they know what’s going on and they don’t do anything. They let it happen and then the parents send you right back to school for it to keep happening. So it don’t seem like nobody cares about that kid ’til he’s dead…or becomes the bully.”
From the mouth of babes? Maybe. I know that not in-spite of, but because they are in detention, the environment and interaction forced me daily to remember that these were still children living out very adult consequences. Each one has a story, so you don’t get to have sympathy, but you can have empathy that somewhere along the way someone failed these kids. We can’t go back and fix it, but we can teach them new tools to use going forward. Bridges are the only solution.
“The mind of evil doesn’t change. It just changes victims when it’s eye catches sight of the helpless or weak” ~Fuzz
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on September 22, 1862. The last slaves deep on the southern coast of Texas got word of their freedoom on June 19, 1865. That means for three years after they were proclaimed free from human chattel laws, Black people in Texas were still held in bondage.
Humans as commodity. People for a price. This is America.
Lesson learned: What we think we know is often outdated by the time it reaches our understanding.
I’m watching the news and of course not so surprised by the heart wrenching images of children in immigration detention centers. This is America.
This is stark symbolism of the US economic agenda against humanity, which we have historically devalued. Tying people to economic policies is our corporate policy. People as pawns; a tradable commodity.
Two sides of this I know, maybe even three sides.
1) Seeking asylum is NOT illegal at ports of entry. Our government officials say running from horrendous gang violence, domestic violence, and rape are not grounds for asylum, because they are not victims of a governmental entity or agenda. I call bullshit! The mere fact that local governments are so corrupt and inept is an indication that they are knowingly and willingly aiding perpetrators of violence. The regimes are through policy and practice are cohorts in creating environments that foster crippling crime and fear. When America says “nope not our problem”, we embolden criminals and spit on the pleas of victims. There is no safe place.
2) The fact that families seeking asylum have had a better chance of being approved can be and is manipulated by human traffickers/coyotes. Some level of vetting and protection must be offered to the minors. It is unfounded racial bias that says ALL MEXICANS/EL SALVADORANS/HONDURANS/NICARAGUANS are criminals first! This is fear mongering at it’s worse. Traumatize those running from trauma is a policy void of decency, compassion, or wisdom.
3) There are humane ways to process families’ paperwork and provide a safe and humane environment. We CAN afford to have the children, where there is reason to suspect that they are under questionable adult supervision, comfortably housed with actual counselors, dormitories, and sleeping cots.
I don’t feel like lying to you or with you about the heart of the American government. “We the people” do not benefit from sleep walking. We can humanely protect our borders and treat people with dignity and respect.
The realest orchestration of imagery and tone that exemplifies the violence, complacency, and symbolic patriotism that juxtaposes the conflict between who we say we are and what we actually are: This Is America-Childish Gambino
Writing is my truest love and I miss when we are apart. But absence does make my heart grow fonder or so I tell my non-committal self.
The sun is up over there
Not here yet
I haven’t heard a bird chirp
Drool in their nests
I slumbered deep for many nights
Curled tightly to myself
Legs moan at wiggling toe’s complaints
Solid ground raised
Back cracks hip snaps pop treats
Fingers sky reach
Rest until your soul can’t sleep
Stand in the morning
Heeeyyyy y’all!! I know it’s been a minute, but I thought I’d peep in and show my face. Believe me, I’ve been working very hard (and quietly) these past few months. Checking tasks of my list and prioritizing my ventures.
Writing is my truest love and I miss when we are apart. But absence does make my heart grow fonder or so I tell my non-committal self. Anywho.. My deadlines will be wrapping up soon and I plan to spend my summer with you!
This meme really lit my wick! I live in an open carry state, where we now have college campus carry laws and yet our major Independent School Districts are closing schools because of budget cuts. 🤔 The two things seem only loosely related huh? Except that in the near future, college educators can expect more ill-equipped students to show up in our lecture halls armed! Giving out failing grades to emotionally immature young adults or over zealous ol’ heads is hard enough, but it’s a little tougher when you know that there are GUNS in the room and you don’t know who has them! Oh and my guns aren’t schooled issued because it’s not in the education budget!!! It’s a gotta bring your own kinda thing 🤷🏽♀️
This is my humble submission for the DP Prompt: Rube
Your purpose is always tied to your service ~ Fuzz (I say that)
I’ve been doing some soul searching and prioritizing. I’ve been asked if I do speaking engagements. I have and I do, but I’m ready to really just focus my topics to those things I am most passionate about.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing so many people that champion for different aspects of social change. They are in the trenches empowering the youth, educating the delivered, and embracing the brokenhearted. I will gladly add my voice to uplift those who are working towards solving problems in their communities and schools.
The following topics run my entire life.
Homeschooling as a economic and political answer to the prison-pipeline school systems. Parent’s choice.
Economic empowerment through entrepreneurial education. The fundamentals of structure, strategy, and compliance.
Perpetrators, advocates, and the targeted other. The personification of genocide and war crimes.
I am not an economist, but I do recognize how the allocation and distribution of resources influence all three of my bullet points. By education, I am a criminologist and paralegal. A researcher. By design, I am an orator. A teacher.
Maybe that explains my list. Taking control of the education of our children will be key in developing future innovators and entrepreneurs that will be in position to advocate for those who were denied access to tools and opportunities. The goal is to be at the top where the C.R.E.A.M. rises, so that individually and collectively we have leverage in unequal systems.
So I guess the first step is offering my thoughts on why it is vital for parents to take control of their childrens education. In my personal experience, the school structure (public, private, charter, etc) does not predict successful outcomes. Parent involvement does. Parents acting as advocates for their children is an essential responsibility that cannot be minimized.
There will always be reasons and objections to why it may be impossible to homeschool. To each, his own. If your child is failing, being bullied, or just not thriving, you owe it to that child to at minimum educate yourself on the many options that exist.
Remember, the economics don’t lie. Some schools are seriously underfunded. They have teachers and administrators who care. They are staples in their communities even as they struggle to meet students needs. Schools that are substandard still receive a certain amount of funding based on student enrollment. If the teachers are great and the community around the school embraces the youth, then forming study groups and reading clubs can be wonderful ways for the parent organizations to maximize the school’s efforts. Sewing clubs and cooking classes can be organized in apartment recreation rooms or neighborhood youth centers. These locations may want to offer life skills programs, but they need parents like you to volunteer.
Now for the schools where there is more danger than education, then it’s time to reallocate funding. Most homeschool programs are connected to conventional school districts, so only a portion of the funding remains with the district. Many who join the homeschool community do so because of lax discipline policies, discriminatory treatment based on race, ethnicity, and religion, and their child’s lack of engagement and excitement about learning. The bureaucratic policies that lead to these conditions will not be fixed by protests, complaints, or news stories. They will be corrected when there is a monetary penalty imposed by unsatisfied tax payers. Reallocate your funding.
I homeschooled for various reasons and at several stages in my children’s education. The first time was about 20 yrs ago and there were no standardized curriculums for free. I used Abeka curricula books that I would purchase from teacher supply stores. I did it because I wanted them to know that there is more than one way to accomplish goals. I wanted them to know that they could learn to create opportunities for themselves where none previously existed. I wanted them to know that all learning styles matter.
By the time I decided to homeschool my junior high student 7 years ago, these great free online programs were available! These programs are typically connected to your local school district, so that State testing and college readiness activities are still available to your child. What made it even better is that colleges and universities began accepting students from accredited homeschool programs in a more streamline way. Students in non-accredited programs must make sure that they participate in all mandatory State testing requirements in order to qualify for enrollment.
Well I really went in a slight tangent about bullet 1 lol. I believe in putting this option in front of my other objectives, because our children are our future (literally)! I want as many parents as possible to know that the platforms of education are still evolving. You do not have to submit your children to the status quo. It is not enough to recognize that systems are breaking our children. We are culpable if we leave them in environments that are stomping out their innovative and creative lights. We have a responsibility to at minimum consider our choices… Conventional and unconventional.
(c) Copyright, 2018. R. Frank. All rights to text reserved.
Although sexual exploitation is the most profitable criminal enterprise, forced labor is the number one type of human trafficking crime committed. Slavery still exists EVERYWHERE! This could include your favorite nail shop, restaurant, or your neighbor’s house (you know they have a nanny but you haven’t physically seen her in months? That’s suspicious)
Recruiters may advertise a great job that includes travel! (Selling magazines or perfume, cable installation, construction jobs, agricultural jobs, modeling, domestic and nanny services, disaster clean up, etc.) The telephone number is legit. Potential victims are called to interview in beautiful office spaces. This reduces suspicion, but it is fraudulent. Young men from every demographic are increasingly vulnerable to forced labor. Educate your sons and grandsons that “make money easy” jobs may be a lure into bondage. Their manliness is no defense against the inhumane violence and threats of violence against their families that will be used to keep them working for free! Warn them!!
😩😩😩But Fuzz what if I see something that seems suspicious?🤔🤔🤔
👉🏽Report suspected human trafficking👈🏽 activity to law enforcement (available 24/7, in over 300 languages and dialects at): Call 1-866-347-2423 (toll free) Call 1-802-872-6199 (non toll free international) Report online at www.ice.gov/tips. 👩🏽💻
Prayers, time, and money are needed by organizations that help fight human slavery. Don’t just take my word for it. Feel free to contact the following for education information and for ways you can help!
You do not have to champion my same causes, but you must fight to end suffering and injustice somewhere. If you don’t see any problems in the world that need your special talents, then you are the opposition and I can offer you nothing but conversion into humanity. ~Fuzz
Know better. Do better. Make lives better. Create a world that’s just better.