Well, it’s my last week at The Beat, and I can’t believe summer is almost over already. It seems like just yesterday I was preparing for my first day in the office. Before they leave, interns are asked to write an editorial note to be published in the magazine, and I think my editorial note is a much better summary of my experience than any blog post could ever be. So, without further ado, here are the last words I will write for The Beat this summer:
As hard as it is to believe, my time with The Beat is already coming to an end, and it’s time to reflect back on the things I’ve learned and experienced this summer. I came to The Beat knowing absolutely nothing about juvenile hall. I had never been inside a juvenile detention facility. I had no idea what kinds of stories I would encounter while working in the office, or what kinds of conversations I would take part in during the workshops.
In the beginning, I felt a bit like a visitor to a foreign country⎯I didn’t speak the language, didn’t know the customs, and could never figure out what to do or say in any given situation. The first time I had to respond to a piece of writing from the workshops, I found myself at a complete loss for words. What could I say to someone whose life was so incredibly different from mine? What could we possibly have in common?
I learned quickly, though. I learned to listen. I learned to ask questions. I learned to look for signs of hope in every piece of writing I read. I came to see every piece as another step in the right direction, as an attempt to communicate with and be a part of the world, rather than rejecting it. Everyone I encountered, whether in person or through their writing, had a story to tell, and I, along with many other interns and volunteers, had been given the privilege of listening to them and sharing them through The Beat.
When I was younger, my parents always used to tell me that all anybody wants in this world is to know that they are heard, that someone is there to listen to them and to appreciate the things they have to say. Everything else is secondary. It’s bad enough to be silenced; it’s even worse to speak and know that no one is listening. We tend to measure our worth by the people who listen to us, take us seriously, and make it clear that they value our opinions and ideas. At the end of the day, everyone just wants to speak and be heard.
That’s why I think things like The Beat are so important. The Beat offers a safe space where youth not only have the opportunity to express their feelings through art and writing, but also receive affirmation that their thoughts are valid, important, and worth listening to. This kind of reassurance can be difficult to attain in today’s world, especially for youth locked up in a place where their opinions carry very little weight. The Beat is about writing, yes, but it’s also about sharing⎯sharing thoughts, feelings, and opinions between people and across generations, unbounded by walls, cities, and even state lines.
I have had the opportunity to read and hear countless stories, many of which will stay with me long after I leave The Beat. I have encountered stories that have brought me to tears, stories that have made me laugh, and stories that have forced me to stop and think about some of the issues that the writers face every day. I have heard some great raps, read some beautiful poetry and, most importantly, gotten the chance to meet many of you and learn about the things that matter most to you. I am very grateful to have had this incredibly rewarding experience, and thank you all so much for sharing your words with me.