Please Don’t Shoot. They are Wearing Orange.

We paint the pictures that stick in peoples’ mind.

So when we talk only about the horror of youth violence, we leave an indelible message. And the message says do something.

But when we mix images, talking about a gang of kids downtown with lives lost and threatened, our image-making leaps beyond reality, and accountability.

That’s why we need to offer the other side of the story when it comes up.

And we have examples.

Recently a group of kids put their energies into Project Orange, an effort to show their determination to talk about violence and also not to become victims of it. It was as positive an effort as any recently. The story below by La Risa Lynch tells us about the kids and effort.

What impact did it have? How are the kids and their supporters moving on? These are real stories that come out of what’s happening in Chicago.

We’ll also have three days to talk about peace here, and again the chance to listen and to look at youngsters speaking about their hunger for peace.

This is the imaging peace gathering, starting on April 26th and highlighted with a youth congress on April 27th.

Here’s a link from Catalyst about it:

and here’s a link to the effort itself:

As journalists, we need to be as breathlessly honest about the world as we see it.

That means telling truths but we don’t do our jobs when we only focus on one side of the story, or when we leave people hopeless or when we don’t look at solutions for the problems that oppress them.

So, if you’ve written about Project Orange, or planning on covering the Youth Congress, please share your work. And if you want to think about how to do this coverage, let’ talk. 369 6400 and leave a message if I’m not in.

by La Risa Lynch
On April 1st a group of Chicago youth want to drape the city in orange as part of an anti-violence awareness campaign, called Project Orange Tree.

The group wants youth and adults throughout the city to wear orange to symbolize unity against gang and gun violence that has claimed so many young lives. The effort is under the auspices of the Lupe Fiasco Foundation.

The youth chose orange because hunters wear that color in the woods to prevent from being shot by fellow hunters.

“What we want is people to realize that violence is a serious issue and violence has been brushed off,” said Vernita Bediako, 18, a youth member of Project Orange Tree. “On April 1st we are getting people to realize that I’m wearing this orange so you don’t shoot me.”

Bediako labeled the murder of teens by gang violence as a “culture of genocide.” But she added

photo by Carlos Javier Ortiz

people don’t recognize it as such like they do the Jewish Holocaust or the Black holocaust of slavery.

Hearing another teen shot from gang violence stays in people’s collective psyche “for two seconds [then] we move on with our day,” the King College Prep student said.

The project hopes to raise the alarm that teens “are in potential danger … of not being alive the next day,”  and that the community, schools and government must do something about it, she explained.

To show support for the effort, the teens want people to take to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to post pictures or any other creative ways they are wearing orange to support the cause. The campaign also includes a four-day sunrise to sundown fast for gun violence victims. The fast ends on April 4th.

The project was imbued out of the death of Hadiya Pendleton and other gun violence victims like her. Pendleton was a King College Prep High School student gunned down in a park only a week after marching in the Pres. Obama’s inauguration in January.

“It is not only for her,” said Chelsea James, 17, a Lindblom High School senior. “I think that is the problem. We kind of single out just one person but … it is more than just Hadiya. It is more than just one person. It is everybody in Chicago, and all of us is affected by the situation.”

Project Orange Tree grew out of a March 1st anti-violence forum sponsored by the Lupe Fiasco Foundation. The foundation’s namesake, hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco, challenged those attending the forum to develop a discernible action plan to address youth violence.

Project Orange Tree represents that effort. Its goal is to promote  awareness of “structural violence” that often leaves youth disenfranchised and caught up in a cycle violence.

RaSia Khepera, 18, described structural violence as anything that physically and mentally harms people.

He said negative media stereotypes, institutionalized racism, school closings and food deserts are systemic problems that causes violence to fester.

“Gun violence is only one factor,” he said. “This is a very deep problem were are addressing. And different types of bills that just deal with gun control are only band aide solutions.”

Unless those other issues are addressed along with gun control, violence will persist, added Khepera, who also attends King and was good friends with Pendleton.

To continue this effort, the teens plan to take their anti-violence awareness campaign on the road. They plan to do school tours to have frank discussion on violence. The aim is to help students define violence  and understand how interpersonal conflicts can lead to violence.

“A lot of times people don’t act out negatively because they necessarily want to, but because there is an ignorance of a better way,” said Jihad Kheperu, 21, a Morehouse graduate also involved with Project Orange Tree.

The school tours is part of an effort to continue this  youth -led movement beyond one day of action. Other projects include a day of good music. The teens want radio stations to play positive songs from any genre of music from pop, indie rock or rap  instead of the negative often misogynistic music that espouses violence.

The youth also want to beautify communities through Project Oasis. The project seeks to turn vacant lots, often seen as eyesores, into something positive. The teens want to partner schools with these lots. Then challenge students to be creative in transforming the lots into  peace or community gardens.

“Living in a pretty neighborhood is a psychological thing,” Kheperu said. “It makes you appreciate life more; appreciate yourself. It kind of defines your life just a little bit better.”



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