“I fear death, I’m young I have a whole life ahead of me, I don’t want to start gang-banging and then people are killing people for no reason now. So it’s like I don’t want to gang-bang and walk down the street and get killed, that takes away my life…but It’s going to hurt the people I leave behind like my mom and dad…if I die I feel like it will hit my family worse, and I don’t want to see that happen to them ” – Nate, age 16.
When I first discovered BUILD, I was ecstatic to learn about this wonderful organization and honored to be welcomed into the lives of some of their youth. This summer I spent several days with Rik Vazquez, Youth Development Specialist at Build and Dope Poet, visiting the youth he worked with. These young men greatly impressed me and strongly touched my heart. It’s so easy for people to negatively label young men of color without understanding their goals, fears, obstacles, and life story. I was impressed by their knowledge, wisdom and honesty. The audio clip posted it long, I admit it, but that is because we covered just about every topic that should be addressed when discussing youth violence. These young men share their goals and obstacles, discuss violence in their personal lives, race and poverty, drugs, education, family support and ways to build up youth and stop violence.
Disclaimer- During the audio piece you will hear young children chanting “Scooby Doo”, we were next door to a group of children battling what movie they were going to watch next.
Sending deep thank you’s to Daniel Perez and Rik Vazquez of Build, and to Nate, Lavell, Johnny and Angel for sharing their stories with me. BUILD’s mission is to engage at-risk youth in the schools and on the streets, so they can realize their educational and career potential and contribute to the stability, safety and well being of our communities.
To learn more about the project visit www.sophianahli.com