Last year WRAG launched the Journalism Fellows Project to share our platform with youth of color in this region who are often written about, but are rarely asked their perspectives on the issues facing their communities and families. We asked the youth to write about challenges they are experiencing, and if they have any solutions to offer. In today’s edition, we hear from Thomas Kent, 2019 graduate of Richard Wright Public Charter School in DC, about the impact of violence in his neighborhood.
-Kendra Allen, Program Associate, Consumer Health Foundation
In DC, I was taught to keep my mouth shut and my eyes closed so I wouldn’t be exposed to things that were beyond my control. My grandma taught me that. I was 12 years old when I learned why. I was exposed to violence pretty early in life when one of my closest friends was shot and killed. It had a chilling effect on me. It was almost like I had experienced it myself, and felt it should’ve been me. I went through a lot around that time, and at one point, I felt like I lost the ability to feel. I was numb because we were so close.
Today people are dying all over the city, mostly over dumb neighborhood beefs that won’t mean anything some years from now. We lose so many youth in DC to gun violence when they shouldn’t even be in the hands of minors. I can almost count on each hand the number of friends I have lost to this type of violence from situations that could have been resolved by talking it out.
A lot of these young people could have been persuaded to never pick up a gun. Older people from the neighborhood enable them by giving them weapons. If the young people had their parents in their lives, then they most likely wouldn’t have gone to the streets for that type of love. All it would take is a simple “how is your day?” to change a child’s path. There are multiple children that deal with this trauma and are angry because they weren’t loved like other children were. They deal with that anger by fighting the law and hurting other people the same way they were hurt.
It’s not easy being in the middle of it all while trying to continue to involve myself with my community and balance playing sports. I’ll be one of three people in my family to attend college and for me, that is a big deal. My parents always wanted what was best for me. This is why I look up to them, appreciate and love them, and look forward to becoming a parent someday in the future, after college.
The main reason I’m choosing to go to college and to play ball is because I need to get away from DC for my family. My family doesn’t want me to get tied up in the life that some of my peers are in. I owe it to them to get my degree and better myself to come back and make a change, either improving the lives of youth on the streets, or in classrooms. When I say make a change I mean bring positivity back to the community, stop the hate, and help people get jobs to provide for their families.
About the Author:
Thomas Kent is a graduate of Richard Wright PCS and will be attending Frostburg University in the fall as a freshman. He will study graphic design and still occasionally do photography. He is an athlete and will be trying out to become a Frostburg Bobcat.