Growing up in the city of Camden, unlike others who have not, I am familiar with the stories of the individuals that call Camden, New Jersey home. Instead of hearing about the positive, empowering & inspirational stories of the people within my city’s perimeters we are influenced by the constant reminder that crime & drugs plague the community. Misconceptions & media coverage fail to shine a light on some of the things that really matter– the amazing individuals that live within the very zip codes of my city & all other inner city communities throughout the United States. Partly due to the negative stigmas associated with the crime rates & “bad blood”, so much of the creativity & talent within city borders goes unexplored due to a lack of resources geared to cultivate & catapult the creativity of these individuals. Inner cities are full of unfulfilled dreams evolved into bitter spirits that now contribute significantly to some of the crime rate & dependency of substances. Shattered dreams, forgotten hopes, abandoned aspirations & a lack of resources can manifest & lead to the destruction of a community.
Much like the talent of our ancestors, our oppression opens the door to creative expression that is undeniably remarkable but often ignored & disregarded. As a result, there are many actors, athletes, musical geniuses, mathematicians, scientists, culinary artists & creative writers that will forever be chained to the stigmas associated with the city they come from. Chained because they lack the resources that can propel their future as children so they can make a difference in the world as adults. Due to the failing system that avoids sifting through the weeds (stigmas) to get ahold of the roses restricted by the oppression of concrete, there is underrepresentation in high revenue, well known employers. This is a clear indication of the lack of resources that are not readily available to our youth early on.
We cannot continue treating inner city communities with the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. We need to begin investing by creating programs that teach our youth to love science, technology, language, math & art. We need to stop cutting creative arts programs that allow children to express themselves through creativity & look for other ways to meet budget requirements instead of removing the only form of expression some of these children have. Let us build the city up block by block so that they know that their only options is not a weakened educational system that is a topic of conversation but often abandoned. Let us show them the luxuries their talents can afford them so that they never give up & revert to relying on the very drug cycle we frown at. Let us not make this a project but include it in the culture. It is about time we draw attention to what matters. What matters is them. We must not give up on them even when they want to. We have to show them that they are worth it because realistically, people are not always receptive to receiving things they are not use to receiving. So it starts by ensuring they have the same resources & opportunities available that mirrors the suburbs. We should give the city something to be proud of, something to openly brag about; something to look forward to. Teach them to go after more & never settle. Appreciate their way of expression & show them that despite where they rise they can still thrive. They are the roses that have grown from concrete, & how beautiful they are– thorns & all.