Tuesday, August 01, 2006

1O PM Curfew ... an example of hyper-criminalization of black and latino youth

DC Alliance of Youth Advocates Protest 10 pm Curfew

While working on various photo and writing projects and listening to Channel 8 News, yesterday, I'd hear two news reports that 'bothered me'. The first had to do with an apology made by Acting D.C. Police Second District Cmdr. Andy Solberg regarding his 10 July comment "... This is not a racial thing to say that black people are unusual in Georgetown ..." . Which I will discuss later in a seperate posting. But as does the second matter at hand it touches onto the subject of the "hyper-criminalization of black and brown youth" .

In response to the recent city's crime emergency officials, on 21 July, enacted the Enhanced Crime Prevention and Abatement Emergency Amendment Act of 2006. Which, among many proactive measures, calls for a 3 month 10PM Curfew for youth under the age of 18 to have taken affect last night which was Monday, 31 July 2006.

And while many will rationalize that "... it is not a racial thing ...", as a 52 year old gay black man who practiced integration I know that it is. Bothered by the news, I'd telephone a close friend in Fort Lauderdale saying "This is just another way for society to criminalize black and brown people and ... condition black and brown youth, at an early age, that their every move is being watched."

It had been last week that I would began writing the photoessay 'Need to be Watched" regarding a comment that a close friend that lives in NYC and who I have known for almost 25 years, expressed to me, in a telephone conversation saying '... you need to be watched ...'. A comment but more statement that 'bothered me' in same way as did the two news reports that I heard during the day on Monday, 31 July 2006.

When my white friend of European descent in his 60's would say what he said I'd demand that he "... please explain to me exactly why, as a 52 year black man, that I need to be watched ...". I would then add, "This is about racism ... and what impact do you think that watching me has had on my black life, over all these years."

He'd respond "... its for your protection. We love you!". I'd snap back, "It's has been my experience, as a black man, that it has not ever been about love. Nor my protection, at least, not for me. But what it is about is ... racism! And protecting the right for whites do drugs while policing, overseeing and dismantling the lives of black men.".

On Monday evening, 31 July, I'd telephone a close friend in Fort Lauderdale and ask if he had heard news of the curfew and of the incident regarding the police who said that that there are not many blacks in Georgetown. He said that he had not. I express this fact because it sheds light on how much these two news items 'affected me'. I'd say to him, that I hoped that black and brown kids will stage protests, in streets, after 10 PM. And then remind him, that aside from all the drugs that I had witnessed whites do and deal, over the years, it had been my experience that when ever white folks had come around me or had gotten close to me that they had created problems for me. These problems are what many refer to as criminalization. But others would claim that 'it is not about race!"

On Wednesday evening, 31 July 2006, the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA), a coalition of more than 50 youth-serving organizations, held an 8:30 pm press conference on the steps of John A. Wilson Building to speak out against the new 10 PM curfew just hours before the curfew the curfew was to have taken effect in the District of Columbia.

Speaking on the steps of the Wilson Building, members of the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, including the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF), the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) and Heads Up, emphasized the need to invest in the city’s young people, not to treat them as the cause of the city’s crime emergency.

The youth-serving organizations, all members of the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, urged city leaders not to scapegoat youth, but to invest in needed youth development, job training, and educational programs that build the skills and confidence required for young people to succeed.
Dr. Sheryl Chapman, Board Member of the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates and Executive Director of the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) , said "We agree with the mayor and the council’s objective of reducing crime in the District of Columbia. We need more then a 10pm curfew for youth to reduce crime. Youth need relationships to make different choices, i.e. to stay in school, to work and to not commit crimes. Our community needs to partner with parents and responsibly take on this "adult problem" including transitioning youth into adulthood. "

A Justice Policy Institute analysis of curfew policies in California found no evidence that they reduce crime. California counties with more restrictive curfew policies saw no decline in youth crime compared to those counties with less strict policies.

In the District, the city witnessed sharp declines in juvenile crime at the end of the 1990s, when there was no curfew. During this period -- between 1996 and the fall of 1999 -- arrests for several categories of juvenile crime dropped significantly. Arrests for juvenile robberies fell 65 %, aggravated assault dropped 39%, rape declined 89%, automobile theft declined 46% and burglary fell 45%.

While certain categories of juvenile crime, such as robbery, have increased this year, 94% of those arrested so far in DC have been adults, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. Out of 36 homicide arrests this year, only one was a youth.

Eshauna Smith, Executive Director of DCAYA, said, "A whole generation of young people is growing up with too few opportunities and not enough hope. We know there is a direct link between youth unemployment and youth violence. We know education is critical. We need to make investments in our youth, with a particular focus on education and job training."
The 10 PM curfew was one of the youth-related provisions of Mayor William’s emergency crime package, which passed the City Council on July 21st. The anti-crime package also included loosening confidentiality protections for youth being released from custody.

Maurice Wilkins, a youth leader in DC, said, "It’s simply not accurate -- and not fair -- to blame young people for the crime problem in our city. Unfortunately, it sends a powerful and harmful message that young people are part of the problem, not part of the solution."
The youth advocates expressed optimism that the 90-day emergency period could lead to additional knowledge about the effectiveness of different approaches to fighting crime.

DCAYA is a City-wide coalition that works to promote positive youth development programs and policies in the District of Columbia. Formed in 2003, DCAYA is a vehicle for providers and young people to engage in collective efforts to build developmental opportunities and safe spaces for adolescents, and to share best practices and local experiences with local officials.

When I arrived home from the 10 protest I'd stop in the lobby to pick-up my postal mail. And much to my delight I'd find two packages. The first contained a note pad that I had lost in South Boston VA when documenting the Juneteenth Celebration at the Berry Hill Plantation. Which Walter Potts had found and would send to me. I wrote about Mr. Potts and remarks that a young black male, Craig Keyes, made during the Juneteenth Celebration which speaks to the very subject matter that this posting speaks on.

And, finally, the second but larger package contained three copies of the Spring 2006 SOULS: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, And Society whose cover photo "Najee, Daquan, and Tyre . South 20th Street . Newark Stairs" dated January 2004 by Helen M. Stummer depicts three black teens sitting in a stairwell below which appears the text "Racializing Justice, Disenfranchising Lives".

And though not surprised since I was informed some back that the image would appear in the Spring 2006 issue, page 57 features my January 2006 "Cop Duty . 33rd Annual March for Life . Supreme Court WDC" photo.

The journal also features an essay by Victor M. Rios entitled "The Hyper-Criminalization of Black and Latino Male Youth in the Era of Mass Incarceration" which speaks to the very subject matter at hand. And sheds light on why, this 52 year black man, was bothered by the two news reports that he heard yesterday.

And while, on the surface, the 10 PM Curfew may not appear to be about race, as a 52 year old gay black man of Native American descent who, over the years, practiced integration I am hear to you, loud and clear that 'it is a race thing!'

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