Tuesday, April 1, 2008

One of Our Own

Express Yourself Milwaukee, Inc responds to violence in our city

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In the world we desire, childhood is a carefree and innocent time of
life. In the world we have, it is too often marked by violence and
trauma.

As we know, many children around the world live with war and
catastrophic violence everyday.
In our country too many of our children have had the innocence of their
childhood robbed by school shootings, bombings, by 911 and Hurricane
Katrina.

Right here in Milwaukee, where violence is on a frightening but steady
rise, our schools and neighborhoods are not the safe havens we wish
them to be.

Express Yourself Milwaukee lost one of our own in January 2004. Our
friend was just 16 years old, dropping some friends off at a house
party, when he was shot 5 times and killed. This scenario is repeated
in various ways hundreds of times each year in our city. The details
of the stories may vary, but there is one commonality, the death of
childhood. Not only for the victim, but for his friends classmates and
other children in the family.

How do we help these young people to cope? To regain a bit of the
childhood they deserve? How do we aid them in a time of great loss,
deep hurt and fear?

In addition to those kids that require professional help, Parents and
teachers can provide great assistance by LISTENING.

Listening does not only mean HEARING their stories. For those
children who may not be willing or able to verbally articulate their
hurt and fear we can listen with our hearts and eyes and time.

Providing an outlet through expressions of art, is one way to give our
children a voice. This is the job taken on by the Express Yourself
Milwaukee team. Along with parents who can provide support via love
and the comforts of routine, therapists who can help the child regain
or find trust and other professionals who can help to "understand" what
happened, teachers, especially those in the arts have a great
opportunity to provide tools in giving the children a voice.

The following poem, written by friends of our lost EYM student is an
example of such an expression of feelings. Their poem and the
Remembrance Tree at Golda Meir school, are memorials to many of those
children lost to violent death, but was inspired by the loss of our EYM
student and friend.

The team working with these children, provided the outlet, we can
"listen" to them now, with our eyes......


We come from the mountain, living in the fire, go back to the water turn the world around.

We come from the sky, go back to the mountain turn the world around.

Do you know who I am do I know who you are?

See one another clearly, do we know who we are?

The Remembrance Tree

Planning and hard work is what it took for this to be.

People from all over town came to see the remembrance tree.

The tree in our playground was already dead

But we brought it back to life, not with violence, but with hope instead.

Many names scribed on copper leaves all were young people under 18.

Their families cried because they died not from cancer or another disease, but from violence in our city something that shouldn't be.

It took a class of 11 and 12 year olds to make people see the harsh reality of just how evil people can be.

Jahmes played the drum and we sang along to a song that taught us about the four elements of life and how to stay strong.

With Lori and Mrs. Schoone we gathered the names and all worked together to have the names engraved.

So many deaths at such a age from stabbing and gunshots, to violence and rage.

The copper on the tree helped us to see, that their lives will still live on for eternity.

So many people came to see, our final project; THE REMEMBRANCE TREE!

Filmed through the camera of a classmate of mine,

The video showed all of our hard work, effort and well spent time.

Surrounded by a prairie of flowers and grass, the tree was a symbol of lives that have passed, and how the community came together because of our class.