Wednesday, January 11, 2006

YARG's Holiday Updates

By: Denisse Rodriguez, age 18

What's up to everyone out there supporting YARG! I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. Well let me update ya'll on what we've been doing.

For the holidays, the Justice 4 DC Youth Coalition sponsored a holiday party for the young people in the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services. The Justice 4 Dc Youth Coalition is an organization that is partnered with other youth organizations, such as ours, within the city to focus on the juvenile justice system.

We had a real good time. We had some performances from the youth in the facility and from the coalition as well. It felt good to do something to at least try to cheer them up for the holidays and to show that we really care. We wanted to let them know that there are organizations that are fighting for the struggle of improving the juvenile justice system and are supporting them.

Here's an article that sums up the whole event:

*Coalition Sponsors Holiday Event for Detained Youth*
*Encourages Community Members to Support Youth, Reform Efforts*

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Justice 4 DC Youth! Coalition (JDCY) sponsored a holiday party for detained youth in the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services’ (DYRS) Mt. Olivet facility, located at 1000 Mt. Olivet Road. Twenty members and supporters of the Justice 4 DC Youth Coalition joined twenty young men in the detention center for an evening of desserts, performances, and craft-making.

The Justice 4 DC Youth! Coalition Youth organized the party with DYRS Volunteer Coordinator, Nkenge Watkins, to support detained youth who will not be with their families this holiday season. The Coalition, which is organizing for a swift closure of the Oak Hill Youth Detention Center, works to reduce the city’s reliance on incarceration, and shift resources and funding to education instead. More than community service, members shared that they consider their visit part of their long-term commitment to bringing about juvenile justice reform.

“The party was our way of showing detained youth that we care about their future,” said Jabari Majeed, the Coalition’s youth organizing coordinator.

Martin Jenkins, 16, a youth organizer for the Coalition added, “As an organizer, it is our responsibility to involve as many youth in our work as possible, including young people that are locked up.”

At the beginning of the party, JDCY Steering Committee member Johonna McCants introduced coalition members and allies and talked about the coalition’s work in the District. Next, Jabari Majiid stepped up emcee the segment of mostly teen performers from the Coalition. Blackout Arts Collective member Christon “Christylez” Bacon, 19, rapped about issues ranging from poverty to his love for kool-aid, while fellow artist Dana McCants, 17, sang acapella versions of Silent Night and Joy to the World.Martin Jenkins, 16, and Tawanda Davis, 17, from Facilitating Leadership in Youth, also performed a hip hop dance routine.

In addition to JDCY member performances, one of the youth at the facility performed two original rap songs, receiving a thunderous applause from party participants.

DYRS Director Vincent Schiraldi briefly addressed the crowd and thanked JDCY for co-hosting the event. Nkenge Watkins, DYRS Volunteer Coordinator, also thanked JDCY and the youth who participated.

Detained youth attending the party seemed to enjoy the festivities. “I liked the performances, especially the rap performances,” noted one of the youth. Another youth remarked that he had a good time at the party and couldn’t decide what he liked best.

Youth members of the Coalition who work at the Youth Action Research Group (YARG), said that they are excited about continuing the relationships they forged at the party. Aqiyla Edwards, 16, said, “We gave them the number to YARG so that when they are released from the facility they can become part of the movement for social justice and help other males who are in the situation that they are in."

To learn more about how to join the Justice 4 DC Youth! Coalition(JDCY), contact the JDCY office at 202-588-9300.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with detained and incarcerated youth, contact Nkenge Watkins, DYRS Volunteer Coordinator at 202-576-8155.


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