August 12, 2010

My hands are painted on a wall here.



There was a time in my life when I had beautiful, flowing words. I used to be able to fill paragraph after paragraph with idiosyncratic details, paint pictures with letters, and come at least somewhat close to revealing my heart with written words.
I'm afraid I don't know how to do that anymore.
I want to sit on my roof, look out over this city I feel tugging on the strings within me, and change it with a song. I want to say a word and know that this place will be changed. If painting these walls would bring new life I'd paint all day, I'd paint all night.. until my eyes grew heavy, my arms weak, and my heart light.
If I could bring light to this place with a song..

If I could bring that child back to life.
If I could promise you a tomorrow without needles, without gunshots, without fear..

We were hanging out on the porch the other day. A guy, probably in his low 20s, walked by and, noticing that we're a little out of the ordinary for this area, said, "hey, what are you guys doing out here?"
[insert elevator speech followed by "we're just trying to clean this place up a bit. what do you think about that?]
"Clean this place up? What would you do that for? I'll tell you what, when I was 13 I was mugged and beaten, when I was 14 I was shot, and at 15 I was stabbed. I'll tell you what, this place should just be burned down. Just burn the place down. Nothing good has happened here in years. Nothing good happens in Camden. Just burn it down and start over."

And he walked away. Waved his hand as though saying "the heck with any of this," and walked away.

I was painting a wall with some kids in a summer program.

me: so do you guys like Camden?
9 year old Zuli: no.
me: how come?
Zuli: too many gangs. too much bad stuff on the streets.

A few minutes later 12 year-old Desmond, far too cool to paint anything but reaching for a brush nonetheless, told me about being approached by a gang member on the street a few days prior.
"He wanted me to join their gang. I told him no and ran."
He wasn't proud. He wasn't scared. He was just saying.

Two weeks ago the head honcho of drug trafficking for the Nine Trey Headbustas set of the Bloods in Camden was sentenced to 14 years in prison without parole for conspiring to murder a gang member. He was caught with 500 bags of heroin, about three pounds of marijuana, approximately 2.5 ounces of crack cocaine, two handguns and roughly $10,000 in cash.
Juan Vargas is 27 years old.

Tell me how this happens. Or better yet, tell me how to make it not happen. Someone tell me..

Tell me there is hope for Camden. Tell me those beautiful 10 year old girls giggling as they pour too much soap into a trash can of water and splash it all over the wall they can't wait to scrub and paint will make it out of here. Tell me they're going to become something. Tell me they aren't going to be the next one to be caught between a bullet and its target.
Dear Daughter, hold onto your innocence.
Naomi, you will become president one day.
Desmond, keep running away,
but know that you shouldn't have to.

1 comments:

River Bend Alpacas on August 22, 2010 at 8:59 AM said...

my dear kendra,
you have been touched by a world far different from the one you grew up in. God has you there for a reason, that you know. You may not be able to rid the gangs from the streets of Camden, nor make all the life-long changes you see the need for, but if you can touch the hearts of Zuli, Naomi, Desmond and all the others then maybe, just maybe, your time in Camden, NJ is not for naught.

Don't give up on your writing...perhaps that, alone, will help others know that there is good in the world and people willing to make a difference.

I love you.
mom

 

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