Of the forces undermining urban community stabilization are those aimed at the youngest, most vulnerable of our community. And of these, the most devastating to our youth are gun violence and mass incarceration. The PICO national network convened the Lifelines to Healing Bus Tour, a direct response to the outcry following the unjust killing of Trayvon Martin. The national bus tour was organized to build awareness around the persistent disparities that exist between King’s dream and the realities of being a person of color in 2013. The Mid-Atlantic leg of the tour began in Boston and made stops in Hartford and Newtown CT, Harlem, New York, Philadelphia, PA, Camden, NJ and here in Baltimore on its way to the commemoration of the 50 anniversary of the 1963 March On Washington.
The Ingoma Foundation, through its Youth Unlocked initiative, hosted the Lifelines Bus Tour at the Historic Sojourner-Douglass College for a 5 hour story sharing and training event with a group of 50 young people and adult allies from the Baltimore area. The session featured young people mastering the telling of their own stories of experiences through story-telling and spoken word performance, about the impact of gun violence and mass incarceration on their lives. Participants documented their stories on film, and learned how to create a powerful public voice on these issues. Said spoken word artist and youth organizer Slangston Hughes, “The Headlines to Healing bus tour event at Sojourner Douglass this past friday was amazing, powerful beyond words! So grateful for the brothers and sisters from all over the country i got to meet, and the incredible stories we got to hear. Shout out to Paulo Gregory Harris, Alvin Toussaint Herring, and everyone who helped to organize the days events and to Dre Jackson for being the lone representative from the Baltimore Citywide Youth Poetry Team, and for his powerful performance. As poets, these are the kind of events that we must be present at more than anything else, slam is fun and can even be transformational and all that but moving forward it MUST be a bonus not the focus. Are words have TO MUCH WORK to do beyond that.”
The Lifelines tour kicks off the Youth Unlocked fall organizing efforts to bring youth, police and community members together to take on community challenges and in the process divert youth toward streams that will carry them sustainably and productively through their lives. “If we are going to make any headway at all in reducing gun violence and stemming the rising tide of youth incarceration in this country we are going to have to hear from young people. Their stories and their experiences matter and have the power to move us to act. This day will bring that voice to the Tour.” said Paulo Gregory Harris, Director of the Ingoma Foundation.