My name is Michael Kemp, and I’m a member of the Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop in Washington, DC.
I work there as a Program Supporter, and I’ll soon be a Reentry Coach. I also work at the Campaign For Youth Justice video recording formally incarcerated youth, their parents and experts.
I am one of those kids who spent time in the adult justice system.
Michael Kemp has been working as a fellow for the Campaign for the last three months. He was recently awarded a 2011 Activist Award from the Washington Peace Center. The D.C. community nominated him for his important work stopping the school to prison pipeline and with Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop. He was honored at the 7th annual Activist Awards Grassroots Gala on Thursday, December 8th, where he recited a poem reflecting on youth and activism. Thank you so much for all your hard work Michael and congratulations!
By Michael Kemp
Well, it's that time of the year in Washington, D.C when tons of people from all over come to admire the sight of the Cherry Blossom Trees. I could never really understand the reason for all the excitement around this particular time of the year, but I now find that crazy because this is something that's been taken place for the past 100 years right in my own backyard. With a few questions and a quick Google search, I now have an understanding of what the fuss is about. Those trees were a gift given to the U.S from Japan to honor their close relationship. Also, I believe it's just something about the natural beauty of growth and transformation that brings so many people together.
From this vase of knowledge, a thought has blossomed. The transition between adolescence and adulthood is an essential time during which you find out who you are as a person. "The Bloom" is the time we as a people should be getting fussing about. I strongly believe if you give the proper attention to youth in this stage of growth, it will truly affect who they bloom into as individuals. I can honestly say that a lot of the decisions I made as an adolescent were steered by the attention I received from people giving me praise and encouraging me to become who I wanted to be. Just like Japan giving the U.S the trees as a gift to honor their relationship. I think we as a people in general should give that very same gift of widespread attention to those future leaders, entrepreneurs, and whatever else these young people want to become.
I was told it’s not the actual tree that brings so many people together, but the sight of so many trees blossoming at once. Take a second to imagine tons of people coming together to admire, support, and appreciate the beauty of youth transitioning into the productive people who will lay the foundation for the next generations to come. I’m not trying to paint this wonderful fairytale about “The Bloom of Youth.” However, I am trying to paint a picture that could turn into a potential celebration for the youth such as a “Youth Recognition Day.” This would be a time when youth could receive proper encouragement, praise, and appreciation. Japan gave the U.S those trees as a gift to honor their relationship. We as a people in general should give that gift of widespread attention to our future leaders, entrepreneurs, and whatever else these young people want to become in life. Imagine the relationship that could come out of this to keep the youth striving and motivated to reach their goals and dreams.
On the other hand, this greatest period of growth could be tainted by throwing a young person into an adult prison. It is like you’re placing a dark cloud over this person’s burgeoning character. That person can no longer see themselves blossoming with a bright future because they’re thinking about trying to survive for the day instead of fertilizing their future. I say this from experience because I still find myself sometimes living only to make it through the day, when in all actuality I should be planning for my future. However, I can now say I have a ton of people who are in my corner encouraging me to go after a life where the sky is the limit.
As always I leave you with some food for thought: What do you wish to cultivate? A bloom of weeds that could potentially stunt the growth of others, or a bloom of young futures that could be beneficial to others?
Michael Kemp@ the Campaign For Youth Justice
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