Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Work of Youth Organizers Ignored in Washington Post Article on Death at Oak Hill
Whats up, this is LaKeisha (age 18) and Aqiyla (age 16). Last school year we worked as part of the Justice for DC Youth Coalition on an organizing campaign to close
Oak Hill, DC's juvenile detention facility.

With much hard work, we won the fight for our cause and the Mayor and DC City Council agreed to close Oak Hill, a disgusting, poorly managed prison for youth, in 4 years and open smaller rehabilitation centers for youth that meet national standards, which basically means that they would actually help the youth who are there.

We had to organize to make this happen because even though DC Council spent a lot of money to put together the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Safety and Junenile Justice and put out this report that said pretty much exactly what needed to be fixed, they didn't do anything about it. If you don't feel like reading the whole report, you can just check out the conclusion.

Recently there was a fight at Oak Hill, the day before Thanksgiving and Karl Grimes (age 18) hit his head on a windowsill. He was taken to Prince Georges Hospital Center where at first he seemed okay but then he began to slur his speech and became unconscious again, and he was consequently put on life support. On Sunday at about six o’clock, Karl's family decided to take him off life support.

Karl Grimes was at Oak Hill for violating parole because of a school fight.

Do adults not care for young people’s safety, as if seeing them already as criminals, so why should we care about what happens to them? They say that youth are irresponsible, but this recent event in Oak Hill's history shows the lack of judgment on adults' behalf. Events like these clearly show that this facility is not fit to stay open and there clearly is not the proper supervision that is needed make sure the youth there are safe.

Also, the Mayor and DC Council received all the credit in the Washington Post article about this for 'agreeing to close Oak Hill', that should belong to the youth who worked hard and brought attention to the terrible conditions of the juvenile facility.

Also so you all know the Justice for DC Youth Coalition is still organizing around this trying to make sure the City sticks to what they agreed too. This is an excerpt from a letter that we and other members of the Justice for DC Youth Coalition sent recently.

November 3, 2005

The Honorable Adrian Fenty
Chair of the Human Services Committee
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Chairman,

We are writing as members and allies of the Justice 4 DC Youth Coalition -- a group of concerned citizens that includes youth, youth service providers, parents, advocates, members of the faith community, educators and other community members working together for a fairer and more effective youth justice system in the District.

The Justice 4 DC Youth Coalition has been calling for the closure of the Oak Hill facility for the past 5 years. Oak Hill is an inhumane institution and has been the subject of a lawsuit for the past two decades over poor conditions, inadequate services and lack of effective programming for youth. Oak Hill represents a failed approach to juvenile crime. It has failed our youth and it has failed the public. And it is past time for it to be closed.

DC's youth cannot afford a 'business as usual' approach to this plan. Oak Hill has been the subject of litigation for 20 years and it must be closed as soon as possible. How many children have been cycled through that institution in the twenty years it has been the subject of litigation? How many more youth will have to suffer until Oak Hill is closed? It is difficult to undo in just 10 short months, the ineffectual leadership, abysmal conditions and neglect over the past twenty years. But we cannot go backwards. We cannot stop the reform effort. We must give the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services our full support to put the plans into place that we have been calling on the Mayor to implement for nearly 5 years. We fully support the new leadership at DYRS and their implementation plan for the closure of the Oak Hill facility and believe that the reform effort should move forward as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Youth Action Research Group

DC Youth Take Back the Media

Hey ya'll, this is Denisse (age 18) and Jose (age 19). How many times have you heard DC young people speak their minds in the news? And, how many times have you seen them in handcuffs on TV? We don't know about how other people feel about youth being portrayed only as criminals and rarely given the chance to speak out, but it's pissing us off. The fact that whenever we are on TV most of the time it’s on COPS and it's negative and biased drives us crazy.

The media also have been slipping on stating the facts about youth in their reporting. Another youth organization called the Youth Media Council, a project of We Interrupt this Message in New York, did this report on the media, and they made a really good point. They stated that even though the juvenile crime rate is decreasing overall, the news coverage of young people continues to increase. That's real messed up.

I don't know if ya'll ever have heard of Bob Woodward, but he was one of the journalists for the Washington Post in the 70’s who helped the informant Deep Throat bring to the US public the truth about all of President Richard Nixon’s lies and illegal spying. Woodward's writing and reporting led to Richard Nixon’s unprecedented resignation after uncovering the truth.

That is what the media should be doing; investigating and digging for the truth. But now Woodward has changed his way of reporting. Instead of pushing for the facts and the truth about politicians and what they are up to, he is chilling with them by their fires in their living rooms. The question we have is why has he changed?

Is there a connection between what has happened to Woodward and the media as a whole in this downward trend in reporting biased news that doesn't push for facts and instead is pushing what the politicians want us to hear?

Now, answer this, why didn't he tell the truth about his role in the whole thing about the Bush Administration leaking the name of a CIA agent to get revenge on her husband because he criticized the White House? Are you kidding me? These are the types of people that are putting out our news.

What trips us out too is that Woodward has openly faulted himself for not pushing to uncover the truth about weapons of mass destruction intelligence in the days leading up to the Iraq war, even though he was told by several people that there was a good chance the Bush Administration wasn't telling the truth. That is so foul. And surprisingly the public buys this ignorance.

This is another prime example as to why we are doing this blog now!! We’re not writing this just to complain, but because we want to have our say in community dialogue and the media. We're tired of sitting there taking what they hand to us. We want to change the dynamics of how media is being reported and how its pitched to the public.

That’s why we need all of you out there in the the community to support us and have a mutual and reciprocal relationship with our blog and support the idea of an alternative youth run news source. Please feel free to respond.