The Aftermath

Their uncle called them “losers”.

What can make a difference in the life of a youth whose behaviors are at once destructive to humanity and self-destructive?

We hope and wait for answers to the “why” of the Marathon tragedy; those answers may never materialize. Why was there such a disconnect to the rest of humankind? Why would creating bombs and firing guns be an answer?

Last year, Adrien worked to photograph a wonderful organization working with Lowell area youth. The group, UTEC, (United Teen Equality Center) has the mission to “ignite and nurture the ambition of Lowell’s most disconnected young people to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success”.  

Listen to the stories these young people tell of how they were once disenfranchised and the difference UTEC has made in their lives. The following short video and the story of the project are the results of Adrien’s association with UTEC last summer.

At this time when we are wondering what triggered the Tsarneav brothers to disconnect from humanity, it makes me pause and wonder if there was a moment that might have changed their course as well.  This is, of course, a mammoth leap of speculation.

We may never know that answer to why the Tsarneav brothers did what they did, why their uncle called them “losers”. But we can be thankful for the UTECs of the world who help the disenfranchised become successful members of the world in which they live.

Chipping Away

This is the longer version of Adrien’s short documentary about an extraordinary group of young people and the United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) here in Lowell. Take a moment to see what overcoming adversity to hope and to dream about a future really look like. And then,if you are so inspired, support UTEC’s programs and efforts by going to their website.

Standing up for what is important

It was at the end of our school day yesterday when one of my students matter-of-factly asked if I had heard about “the shooting”. Knowing about the violent incident this past weekend on a street near my elementary school, I waited for her to continue. Which she did. As if it weren’t something out of the ordinary, this 8-year-old described how her mother brought my students and her sibling to an upstairs bedroom where they would be safe from further gunfire. And this revelation led another student to share that he lived on the next street and also  heard gunshots.

Can I just be on the record that no 8-year-old should have to deal with this?

A few years ago, one of my students was nearly hit when a stray bullet went through the front window of her family’s apartment on the same street. When I asked what she did next, she told me she just got on the floor. Simple as that as if a bullet going through the front window was not that unusual.

So yesterday, when I heard about a walk, a community response event sponsored by several city neighborhood groups and UTEC (United Teen Equality Center), I felt the need to walk in support of my students, many of whom are exposed to violence and trauma in ways that are normally quite easy to shut out.

As the walkers traveled from City Hall in silence, I realized how easy it is to detach from the violence my own students deal with. This simple act, made it real – as one speaker said, tonight we would not be driving by, we would stop and reflect on the recent city violence.

I don’t have many answers for my students; they live in an environment that I, a product of white, middle-class upbringing, can hardly begin to imagine.

Eight-year-old or eighty-eight years old, violence is never an answer. Walking with those whose lives are highly impacted by such events made turning away impossible.