VOX ATL teamed up with Writing Our Wrongs to invite teens at the Historic Young YMCA in Southwest Atlanta to speak about what they would like to change in their community and they also shared advice to fellow teens about how to rise above their circumstances.
The teens also had an opportunity to write out their thoughts. Here is what they had to say:
“I was in a situation where one of my friends went to a nightclub the day after his birthday, and he needed to have some fun. He had gotten into it with a classmate that didn’t like him at the time. They started arguing back and forth, and the person had pulled out a gun and almost shot my friend, but luckily a police officer stopped the problem.” –Markese, 15
“Something that impacts me is violence in my community because it has affected lots of people around me and it is starting to get out of hand. One of my brothers died because of violence.” –Omega, 16
“As I walk the streets, I see litter that speaks more volumes than one can see.
Wondering why the people don’t care, care about the pollution,
Chemtrails the government sprays in the air.
It’s not easy to try to clean Mother Earth alone,
Trying to show people how polluting the earth will turn into a dead zone.
Spreading love and positivity throughout the day knowing if we come together thing will go our way.
Taking care of where we live is important, it’s where we sleep, eat, show love in.
Every day, every minute is a chance for change, a change that will and can end Mother Earth’s long-lasting pain.”-Ananda, 18
“Crack bags and broken glass. What’s that?
It’s the hood where it’s so-called bad.
Broken bottles, used condoms.
Prostitute on the corner just waiting for a model.
Newports are new sports and ways to put people like me through court.
Every empty liquor bottle is another heart shattered
Why don’t you just take our future and burn it on a platter
We say it’s all ’bout the money because it’s greener than pollen
Another child being influenced by a street gang is just another dead man walking.
Why don’t we buy the streets before it’s too late
Instead of killing and becoming another inmate!”-Jordan, 14
“Something in my community that I care about is children getting home safe. Stop putting trash on the ground to make the community look dirty. I care about this because if you keep putting trash everywhere you live it makes your surroundings nasty. People should start being friendly instead of mean all the time… I care about kids being safe because a lot of young people my age are dying. People are just mean for nothing and wanna be mean just because.”-Taya, 14
“The most important thing I see in my community is financial problems. In certain areas, I see abandoned homes and broken down apartments and half done buildings that the city didn’t even finish. Since most families are having money problems, they would have to move from house to house not knowing where to go and trying to find a job.”-Xavier, 17
“One thing that affects me is kids with disabilities because not only are they being picked on but they don’t live a normal life. The reason why I care so much is because I was blessed to be regular and I feel like everybody is the same and should be equal.-Jeremiah, 15
“Growing up in school that was predominantly white or Hispanic was an uneasy feeling. It was as if I was an actual black sheep but unglorified. Like I was a stain on a white T-shirt. We could never fully relate to one another because of our different culture and who we view the world. Every time they would see someone that looks like them, it would be future lawyers, doctors, scientists. But for someone of my color, it would be athlete or gangbanger. A lot of time we talked differently and they would mock or make fun of how you talk. When there were pictures taken, you would always think you’re too dark for the pictures or for some reason there is never enough light. And with every day you go, you felt more as if you don’t belong there. No matter how many friends you make or much they tried to relate or understand. But for me as a person…I became comfortable with the fact that I was different. I became proud that I was the odd one out. I didn’t care that we wouldn’t be able to relate to anyone there. I had a family at home and at school, I would be known as the one that’s different/unique. In my mind, I felt that we were all the same in the sense of shaping our lives. I know that I could become a lawyer, doctor, athlete or scientist if I wanted to. I wouldn’t worry about what we/I couldn’t do and be focused on what we/I could do.-Dwayne, 17
Something that’s strongly affecting me in a bad way is negativity. I feel like negativity is spread throughout schools, households and when you’re walking up and down the street. Negativity can change a person’s mindset, it can change the way people feel. And it can most definitely change the way that people handle certain situations. I feel like the little bit of positivity that we have in our community isn’t enough. Negativity overpowers positivity. But one person can change that. For example, if I get 10 people and those 10 people get 10 people then the word will spread quicker about positivity and what it can do for the soul and body. Another thing is empowering the voices of our teens. A lot of teens don’t think they have a say so.-Tia, 13
When I go over my friend’s house, which is an apartment. I always see five and seven-year-old walking by themselves. The problem with that is that over 800,000 children are reported missing each year. Someone told me a story about how a dad was looking up how to kill a kid. What came up was making him stay in the car for a few hours, and this kid was about three years old. If you think about it, if you are three, you can’t open the door. The only thing the baby will do is cry.-Julian, 13
When I was younger many people teased me because of my freckles and I really used to come to school covering my face with make-up to hide my freckles. I really cried and cried because of the way people teased me. The makeup made it worse on my face and I was really depressed and sad and asking God why did he make me like this. But later on many boys were calling me beautiful and my mom and dad were calling me beautiful too.-Aura, 17
I wanted to play football but I thought about it and I said no because I am in the “Lead By Example” program. In my community, I see cats & dogs, homeless people, violence, trash, cars, fights and gangs. I say that our community is bad because people in the community are sometimes not safe to be around. It is not safe in the community because people gang bang and do robberies and crimes and shooting and there are crazy people. I say this because I am speaking what I feel in my community. –Dior, 16
Something that I really care about is no more trash in the community. Some people around the community just walk down the street and throw trash down and act like they don’t see. Sometimes it’s trash cans in front of them and they still throw it on the ground still. –Jani, 12
My community is full of poverty,
with lack of love and properties,
It has gang members and robberies.
Some people watch and make a mockery
but don’t want to help clean up the streets.
I will create the change for youth
and come back and spread some truth,
That it doesn’t matter who you are,
But the journey you take and if you go far.
I will bring my family out
End the droughts
And stop the doubt
That everyone on this road won’t make it out
And be the praise they shout and shout.-Travion, 16
Growing up in a white school and being the only black girl with one other Puerto Rican girl. Being there, they singled us out because of our skin color. We couldn’t play games or do certain activities because they thought we weren’t good enough because of our skin color. Nobody understood us nor took the time to figure us out. They never asked what we liked to do or what we were interested in. We often got bullied because of our skin color. Growing up as a young black woman in a white racist school, I always felt singled out. I wanted to bleach my skin to fit in. I didn’t think being black would get me anywhere in life. Now that I am older, I realize that my skin color is a wonderful thing to have. Being black taught me that I am strong and confident. That experience helped me love my skin color and that I have tons of opportunities going for me. I want to be the youngest black female architect in the state of Georgia but over time go worldwide. Being black is beautiful. There’s nothing wrong with my skin color. I have equal opportunities as anyone else in this world. Always look at people as an equal, never single anyone out just because of their skin color. I want to do a podcast and go around different places showing young black girls and boys that their skin color is amazing and that they don’t need to do anything other than be themselves to fit into this society that we are in. There is no problem with being yourself. If someone has a problem, just tell them you’re unique in your own special way. Love yourself or nobody else will. Treat yourself like you would treat someone else.-Synai, 16