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Hey all you Beat enthusiasts! Welcome to The Beat Blog where we will regularly update with recent news about how we're doing, links we think you might want to check out and other information we think you should know! Check back regularly to see what's going on in The Beat office!

FRIDAY, 02 JULY 2014

Dear Friends at The Beat Within,

We are the Juvenile Justice Capstone class at Portland State University, winter term 2014. Throughout this term we have had the privilege of facilitating Beat Within workshops with incarcerated youth at Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Facility in Multnomah County, Oregon. As we approach the end of the term, it falls on us to create a fundraising project to help financially support The Beat Within. Our class decided to create a short video based on our experience, comprising work from the youth we have been working with, as well as various inspirational quotes. The video project will include a link to the donation page for The Beat Within, and we plan to distribute the video far and wide (Facebook, YouTube, etc.). We would also like to offer you the video to use for any purposes that make sense for you. While we know you have received a direct donation from this class in the past, we wanted you to know that we are working to support you and it is our sincere hope that the video generates many new donors directly to The Beat.

This has been a difficult letter to write; our words cannot adequately express the feelings we have about what you do for these kids. They are just kids, kids that are for one reason or another incarcerated, lost in a system they don't understand, faced with judgment and uncertainty. The Beat Within gives them the freedom to express themselves, to be validated, to be heard, to share and to feel. Your work with and on behalf of youth is amazing and selfless, and we feel honored to be a part of your efforts.

With sincere appreciation,

Juvenile Justice Capstone, Portland State University, Winter 2014


Volume 18.29/30 Editor's Note

Greetings Beat editorial note readers. We're honored to be back in your hands with another fabulous double issue of writing and art from inside juvenile hall and beyond. This double issue is not different. This week's writings pack an incredible punch, from the young people we see each week in our writing workshops, to those who take the initiative and send us writings for consideration in The Beat Without. It is such an honor to share so much great writing, and to have the opportunity to work with so many fabulous people. We are quite fortunate.

This latest issue is no different, we are giving the ed note floor to our colleagues and friends to share some insight with you all. This week our guests are a duo, in Emily and Maya. We can't thank the two of them enough for the fabulous work they have done this summer, from the typing to the editing in our office, to co-facilitating workshops in the hall. Fantastic and so appreciated! Now lets get busy and pass the keyboard over to our new interns…

Hey Beat! We're Emily and Maya and we've been interning here at the Beat for four weeks now. In that time, we've had the privilege to read a wide variety of your insightful work and learn more about the criminal justice system. One issue we've encountered that sticks out to us is the controversial topic of solitary confinement. (Unfortunately) We know some of you will be moving to adult facilities in the near future and encountering this issue firsthand, if you haven't already. With you in mind, we began to do our own research about the psychological effects of this form of punishment.

As we mentioned in the previous issue, 30,000 inmates across California have been participating in a hunger strike since July 8th in order to improve living conditions and reduce the usage of solitary confinement. At this point, the number of participants has decreased, but the message of the strike is still just as important.

This strike has come to the attention of human rights organizations, which argue that solitary confinement has potentially harmful psychological effects. Studies have shown that individuals who've experienced long periods of solitary confinement demonstrate permanent brain damage similar to that caused by physical brain injuries. The U.S. is the only democratic nation to hold its own citizens for such prolonged periods in isolation. Solitary confinement might not get as much press because it isn't a physical form of torture; however, this form of punishment is emotionally and psychologically damaging, leading to depression and suicidal thoughts in some cases.

Though solitary confinement is less common amongst juvenile detention facilities, the effects can be much more severe. Because the brain is not yet fully developed until an individual's early to mid twenties, isolation during adolescence can stunt brain growth. In addition, adolescence is a key period of social development; young people often construct much of their identities based on their social environments. Therefore, we think this controversial issue is especially relevant to young people. We hope you keep this in mind when thinking of the hunger strike, based in Pelican Bay.

One purpose of The Beat is to unite this community across facilities and connect people who feel isolation of any form. The Beat plays an important role in allowing expression for those who have been silenced. Knowing this, we hope that during the remainder of the hunger strike you're able to reflect on solitary confinement and consider the perspectives of those who have experienced it. We'd love to hear your opinions on solitary confinement and the hunger strike, whether that's through conversation or writing and art.

Thank you Emily and Maya for your thoughtful words. With that said, we hope you visit and appreciate the work of Michael D. Russell whose art and writing are featured in The BWO section this week. Michael speaks firsthand and through his words and art gives us a true glimpse into his world of isolation.

Now, any of you readers seeing our writing prompts for the first time and feel inspired by them, please-please consider writing on them. We'd love to hear your thoughts and get them into a future publication.

With great respect, we can't thank you enough for picking up this issue of The Beat Within. Now, we leave you all by dedicating this fantastic issue to our new friends, the Youth Leadership America, whose work is featured on page 4 of this fabulous issue. Thanks for all you have done this summer!


Volume 18.27/28 Editor's Note

Welcome back Beat editorial note readers. We suspect there is only a few of you out there, but that's fine, we appreciate all of you who take a few minutes to read what's happening within The Beat's editorial note.

As you may or may not know, each issue we publish, we always put out a request to our many colleagues, from our great volunteers to our terrific interns to consider writing and sharing a part of them in the editor's note. With that in mind, this week is no different. This week we have one of our favorite typist and long time associate, David Cunningham, share a part of himself with us readers.

Before we hand over the keyboard to David, we want you to know this issue is packed with incredibly thoughtful pieces, from the powerful writings from Proyecto Cuéntame, coming out of El Salvador, to the thoughtful poetry from the Youth Arts Alliance (YAA) out of Southeast Michigan, both groups are featured writings in this knockout of a double issue – 18.27/28. Of course there is a host of writings from the numerous sites who help shape and mold The Beat Within, to the mighty thoughtful writers and artists who deliver the goods for The BWO section.

All right, we bring you David Cunningham!

What's going on Beat readers? It's a pleasure to provide my input on the trials and tribulation that I've been through to you readers, especially you guys and gals in juvenile hall. I encourage you to take the time to analyze what's going on and realize the seriousness of your life. I'll try to give you guys something to think about and take your mind off all the worries that you have, or simply know some of the feelings you have, you are not alone.

I been on the block, I've been in riots, I used to live my life on the edge. Living life reckless use to be fun, but the thing is it's fun until you get caught. I say that because I wish I would have listen to the people that wanted to see me shine and basically stay out of trouble.  

I once been in the same predicaments as you dealing with people (you feel) that don't give a shhh about you. I know how it feels to be lockdown, being stuck in the cell all day, missing love ones, losing love ones, feeling depress, and over coming the obstacles that the criminal justice system provides. I know what it feels like to eat the same food every day, and still be hungry at night. I know what it feels like to have your freedom taken away from you.

Yet, I also know what it feels like to live and be free. Having fun with the close ones. Having the ability to go where I want when I want.  

I've been in and out of the system since I was fifteen (now I am in my early twenties), and I know nothing feels better than getting out. It's like all your favorite holidays put together, but better. It's something you will never forget! But then there's nothing worse than going back to jail, stressing over how much time you might have to do. Feeling like you are by your self. So keep that in mind when doing what your doing.

I know how hard life can be, and I know people have to do what they have to do to have a better life. So with that being said, keep your head up because at the end of the day you decide how your life will carry its course. That's why God gave us the power to make our on decisions.  

The Beat Within appreciates the feedback on everything, especially your writing, keep them coming. The importance of your stories is very strong because people go through things, and the lesson that needs to be learned can be taught through your journeys. They could be lifesavers, by learning from others mistakes and also knowing you are not alone. Life is what you make it. So take the good with the bad.

I went from living an illegal lifestyle to working and maintaining a lifestyle that is comfortable. So if I can do it, you can too. There's nothing in your way. Only you can prevent yourself from achieving your goals. Learn from your mishaps and strive to be better. Wake up every day with something that you want to accomplish. Life is too short, so don't go through life feeling like you could have done so much more. Take advantage of the things that are going good for you. And dismiss those that don't wont to see you grow and progress.

Thanks for reading!

Thank you David C. We know readers always appreciate one's truths and to know we are not alone in our struggles and challenges that come with living life, particularly in one's efforts to overcome life within and around the criminal justice system. See you soon.

This issue goes out to the 30,000 California adult inmates who are a part of what some people are saying is the larges peaceful hunger strike in California state prison history. The protest began on July 8, 2013. Today is day two. According to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition their demands are for state officials to: 1) Stop punishing groups for the actions of individuals. 2) Stop rewarding those who provide information on others. 3) Improve nutrition. 4) Institute constructive programs for those in solitary confinement. And, 5) End long-term solitary confinement. We can only hope that the needs of the inmates will be met soon, given they are putting their lives on the line.

With that said, we hope you writers of The Beat continue to strive for a better life away from the system, yet we do know many of you are on your way to the adult system. We hope you continue to use your skills as writers and artists to educate us readers, with the hope your words and your teachings will save a life from falling further into the traps of the criminal justice system. All the best!


Volume 18.25/26 Editor's Note

It's a great feeling when I'm outside of work and one of the kids that has participated in The Beat Within sees me, and asks, "Are you still doing The Beat Within?", yet they've been out of detention for two or three years. The impact The Beat Within has and will continue having on many of our youth is amazing to me. I am having some changes in my life right now that are going to be preventing me from doing The Beat, but for me it will only be a short time until I get things back in order. The other day I called David Inocencio about my situation and it was a phone call I never thought I would have to make.

As I was cleaning out the office this week, getting all my papers in order, I ran across the first e-mails I had exchanged with The Beat Within. I was amazed that it was 2006. I know it took me about eight months to get The Beat up and running here in Albuquerque, but now that I look back, The Beat has been running here in Albuquerque for the last five years every Wednesday on a consistent basis. During my time working with the Beat Within I've had the great pleasure of meeting David Inocencio, and doing two workshops with him here in New Mexico. I've also had the pleasure of writing the editor's note at least four times. The Beat Within has also been recognized here nationally through JDAI, as well as through the program Youth Jam, and the New Mexico Law Association. During the last five years I've had the pleasure of creating three books for The Beat Within. These include "The voices of our youth", "The voices of our youth 2" and "Illustrations from The Beat Within". I also was able to create a web page for The Beat on a chat-base website. There is more, but I just wanted to let you all know the impact The Beat has had here in New Mexico. I have learned a lot from The Beat staff, but I also learned a great deal from the youth that have participated in The Beat.

When The Beat first started here in the Center, I was given a hard time by some of the staff because it is a correctional setting where I work, and being an officer of the Center, some staff didn't agree with The Beat Within. The funny part is after about five months, the same staff that gave me a hard time saw the positive impact The Beat Within was having on the kids and in turn, they changed their outlook on the program and started asking me for a copy of the publication every week. Now that The Beat is taking a break here at the Center, several people have asked me who is going to be doing The Beat. Unfortunately, I have no answer for them, but as I've said before, once I get things back in order, I'll figure out a way to get The Beat back running here in New Mexico.

I have seen too many positive changes to just let The Beat vanish. Every time I did a group, it felt good - not just for the kids, but for me knowing that a few were looking at life different. The kids knew they were not alone, and they saw first-hand how kids from around the world were having similar problems in life. They knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.

There is so much more I would like to say about The Beat Within and the positive impact it has had on the staff, various professional agencies, the kids and I, but with space limited I want to bring my words to a conclusion.

I want to thank David and all The Beat staff for all they have done for the kids. I would also like to thank Judge John J. Romero Jr. from the second judicial Court for being a great advocate for the program. I still get letters from around various facilities from New Mexico, so as I get them, I will be submitting them to The Beat. Not a goodbye, but a short break from Albuquerque New Mexico.

Though it is not a goodbye, we are still saddened to read that The Beat Within program in Albuquerque , New Mexico will be taking a break in the action. As our dear friend and colleague Steve Serna stated, The Beat Within has been a consistent part of his work for the last five-years, and now to have to put it on hold is tough, especially for the youth who look forward to the program each week.

We will do everything in our power to support Steve and his colleagues in getting the program up and running, better sooner than later.

As Steve stated, it is not a goodbye, just a break, but still with that said, we want to acknowledge our friends in New Mexico with high praise and respect. We value our partnership and already cannot wait to get the next installment of writings from Steve and the young people he's working with. This issue goes out to Steve Serna and all the young writers who have worked with Steve in this latest issue that you have in your hand and all those writers who have poured their heart and soul on paper over the last five years. Thank you Steve. Thank you New Mexico writers.


Volume 18.21/22 Editor's Note

Early this month, The Beat did an outreach to Gateway High School in San Francisco.  By chance, our ol' friend and "newest" colleague, DeAngelo Cortijo was available to join us.  We sensed his eagerness about this opportunity to speak at the high school, we simply informed him to come from the heart. Well, DeAngelo did more than that, he worked on the following essay.  Upon entering the school, DeAngelo, dressed for success, in a suit and tie, stated that this was the first time he ever entered a high school, given he was raised and schooled through the Juvenile Justice System.  Though our time was short, under an hour, we met with a creative writing class of thirty-plus students. Once we got through telling this respectful class about our publication and our work in the hall, we then introduced DeAngelo, who calmly introduced himself and read the following...

My name is DeAngelo Cortijo, I am nineteen years old and I was just released from the DJJ (Division of Juvenile Justice) formerly known as the California Youth Authority (CYA).  I was committed to DJJ for juvenile life but got out six-years early for good behavior.

As a child I suffered from mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse from the ones that were supposed to be my protectors. My family was poor, there were times when I would go days on an empty stomach, my mother would leave and me and my sister would starve. I remember my sister feeding me crayons and toilet paper.         

My mother was suicidal and to this day I could see those flashing lights, and the gurney taking my unconscious mother away.  I still feel those unfamiliar hands grabbing me and telling me it's going to be all right, I always knew that it wasn't. I was a smart kid. The next door neighbors would take us in, until my mother's return from the psych ward, but the cycle would continue.

The times that I remember being with my mother, are all hurtful. Especially when she called CPS and had them pick me up after I would AWOL from a placement. Or when she would kick me out onto the streets at the direction of her boyfriend. This pain and anger lead to me not caring whether I lived or died.         

After failing placements in the foster care and crimes committed while AWOL I was put on probation and continued the same negative behavior in group homes.

After a while the system got tired of sending me to placements and when I was caught on my last escape at age thirteen, they did not let me go. The judge sent me to out of state placements as well as in-state placements. After a couple of years I got fed up and decided to assault peace officers so that I could go to DJJ.         

During my incarceration period I was considered a high risk youth, which means that I was not expected to live past the age of 18. I was at risk of death and or serving a life sentence in prison. Furthermore, I was expected to be killed in prison.

I remember there were times when I would be locked in my cell with my hands and feet bound, stripped naked and left on the cement floor. At those moments I would pray and hope for a friend, a visitor, a warm person to give me support.          

I learned to develop what I thought was hate towards my mother.  One vivid memory that still stands firm in my mind is visiting time. I would hear the intercom shout "visitors on the way up!" deep inside I was yearning for somebody to visit me, I really wanted my mother, but a lawyer or social worker would of been good. During those times I would stand behind my steel, immovable door and stare out of the narrow windows into the dayroom, I would feel a deep burning sensation in my heart and it would slowly eat me from the inside out as I wished that I had a visitor. i remember feeling a deep hurt and anger, I would feel dead, unloved and I took my anger out on the staff and other youths. I hurt people whom were there to help me. I did drugs every chance I got and even I forced my way into the gang life.

During my 9 years in and out of the Juvenile Justice System I developed a special bond with The Beat Within. I poured my heart out and onto the pages of The Beat, hoping to be heard and eagerly waiting on their response. I could always count on The Beat, they made sure I was heard and a response was given. For years The Beat was my family, my only form of communication, my only vision to peace and freedom. I was never judged and I was always treated with respect and care.         

I am sharing my story with you because I was your age a few years ago. I never got the chance to experience high school. I never got to take girls to the movies, go to dances, socialize with people whom want to make something of themselves and to this day, I still do not have an idea of how it feels to walk down the halls of a school as a student and friend. My bad choices as a youth resulted in me missing out on the experience of child and teen hood. I would give a million dollars, to go back in time. I would of listened to the people who told me to do good, I would of stayed away from gangs and drugs, I would of made better choices.

I have been out for one month and let me say, I love freedom! I am a paralegal intern at East Bay Children's Law offices and a part time worker for The Beat. I received my GED during my incarceration and as a result of my potential a scholarship from the Citizens Advisory Committee.         

I aspire to be an attorney, and one day I will influence legislation to make it easier for abused and mistreated youth to succeed. I would love to impact you and have a positive influence on youth nationwide as well as be their voice and mentor. It's up to us, to make it better for us! We are the change and our lives matter! WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP HOPE!

Upon completing his presentation, the respectful class erupted into cheers for DeAngelo. It was truly an amazing moment and highlight for all of us, especially DeAngelo. With that said, we hope this is not the last time DeAngelo gets such an opportunity to share his story and his work with the community. We know it is his goal to return to the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center, to reconnect with the staff and all the workers who once played a part in his young life as he was coming in and out of the hall. From what we know, DeAngelo has truly grown up from his days in the hall, and his maturity sure shines, as he works towards fulfilling his dreams and goals. This issue goes out to DeAngelo and all you hard working young people who we meet each week, that are determined to change for the better. We're routing for you! Enjoy the issue!


Volume 18.19/20 Editor's Note

Welcome back readers, writers, and friends of The Beat Within. It is always an honor to be able to work on, and be a part of such an extraordinary magazine that is truly unique in it's nature. Having been an intern over these past few months is a new experience, which has reminded me that even I am not alone in the struggles of life. Being a young adult I feel a strong connection with youth incarcerated whom I come into contact with. I can only anticipate that by participating in weekly workshops will bring some kind of hope to the many youth who are locked up, but not forgotten.

Struggling for what seems like all my life I have began to wonder if I could have made better choices when I was younger, to be in a better position than where I am today. It can be easy to feel sorry for myself, which causes me to have self-destructive behavior, and only leads to more misery. Not everyone has someone who supports them to achieve their dreams, and I wish I would have listened to those who tried to guide me in the right direction when I was younger.

Having had the opportunity to get a college education, I feel it is now my responsibility to be there for anyone growing up without the help, and love they need to feel hopeful about their future. The work done at The Beat Within has been a great place to begin affecting the lives of youth who are struggling, just as much as myself, if not more. I have found the writing workshops most educational simply by being able to learn from the experience the youth share.

It can be hard to believe but our life's struggles ultimately help to shape us into the people we were destined to be. Growing up in poverty, with a single mother, and becoming pregnant as a teen, I can say my life has not always been peaches and cream. What I now know, is that because of what I went through in life, I am placed in a position where I can connect with youth who are growing up in similar situations to mine. Even today I am still struggling to survive, and as much as people tell me things will get better they only seem to get worse. No matter how many challenges I face each new day I am learning that I need to be grateful for what I do have instead if complaining about everything I don't have.

The writings from the youth inside juvenile hall open my eyes every week to seeing how my ability to overcome life's circumstances, helps to encourage other young people to have more hope in their lives. When we know we are not alone in what we are going through we are able to uplift those around us. The writings from the youth each week that make up The Beat magazine is exactly what helps to uplift other youngsters who are struggling with things in their lives that they think no one else can relate to.

Doing The Beat workshops with the young people in San Francisco has truly made a huge impact in my life. It's easy to get distracted when we are young and never have a chance to think about creating a future outside of what we are use to. I may not think I have come far by going to college for so many years, but motivating teens to live a healthy life and being a positive example has shown me how important it is to stay strong and remain focused.

Helping facilitate The Beat workshops has allowed me to show troubled youth that our failures do not define us, but can help to create us into the people we are destined to be while living up to our full potential, and their writings are a perfect example of this. I hope you all enjoy the pieces shared in this issue, and thank you everyone who contributes each week.

Thank you Abiba Bola for sharing a part of you with all of us readers. We are honored to have you as a colleague and friend. We truly hope once your internship is complete, you will still keep The Beat Within in mind. There is always a place for you to support and be apart of this work.

This issue goes out to Olivia Holdsworth and Jenna Knapp, co-facilitators of Proyecto Cuéname, based in El Salvador. We are thrilled to feature the work of their young men in this week's issue, as much as we were thrilled to do so for the young women in the previous issue. We hope this is not the last time we hear from Proyecto Cuéname.


Volume 18.17/18 Editor's Note

Welcome back Beat readers to yet another fabulous issue of writing and art from the inside. This week's double issue, 18.17 and 18.18, is filled with plenty of surprises, as we welcome our new friends from El Salvador, Proyecto Cuéntame. To find out more about Proyecto Cuéntame, we encourage you to read their intro and the fabulous contributions by their young people, starting on page 4.

Now before you head on over, we are thrilled to have this week's editorial note written by our dear colleague and friend, Claudia Jimenez, who has been an incredible asset to the work this year, as a SFSU intern. We hope this is only the beginning and that Claudia will stay connected, even after her graduation from school. Lets pass the computer keyboard over to Claudia, so she can give us a dose of her thoughts!

Creating a positive impact in my community has always been one of my main goals. For a portion of my childhood I lived in San Francisco's Mission District and experienced how hard it can be to avoid trouble and stay on the right path. As I write to you today I reflect on how easily my life could have resulted in a much different outcome. Surviving adolescence is not an easy task, and there are many factors that can affect us both negatively and positively. Outside pressures and the struggle to overcome adversity can feel overwhelming at times. Feeling like society and your community has turned their backs on you can be very traumatic. Being able to change your path in life is an ability we all acquire, and sometimes having the right people in our lives can make all the difference in the world.

Interning for The Beat Within has been a great opportunity for me. Conducting workshops at the Youth Guidance Center (aka San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center) has given me the chance to hear the youth's voices and discover what thoughts and emotions exist within each individual. In life we will all come across a variety of people. Some will only see our flaws and judge us by the poor choices we have made in the past. Others will be able to look beyond the negative stereotypes that have been placed on us and will make the effort to see what we have to offer. Coming to the workshops has allowed me to form a healthy and supportive relationship with the youth I interact with. I want them to know that they are valued by The Beat Within and myself.

Being part of the writing workshops has allowed me to get a glimpse of what it's like to be an incarcerated youth and understand what they are experiencing. Feeling alone and forgotten during such a critical stage in their development can be very difficult. When I prepare for a workshop I am determined to make difference in their day and hopefully make an impact in their lives. I let them know they are not alone in their struggles. I want them to feel a sense of achievement when they finish up an inspiring piece that will be a great addition to the magazine.

I found The Beat Within through my academic advisor at San Francisco State University. I am majoring in Child Development Youth Work and Out of School Time, and part of my graduation requirements is to complete an internship at an agency that works with youth. Although I had a few other options, I chose to be part of The Beat Within because I felt that it would be a great opportunity to make a positive impact. One of my goals is to pass on the knowledge and wisdom I obtained as I transitioned to adulthood. I know that the youth and I share some of the same stressors and anxieties that come with this journey. Being able to find yourself is very important and writing for The Beat Within can make this process much easier.

So to all the youth who are part of The Beat Within, I hope you are able to take advantage of the time you spend writing your pieces during the workshops. I encourage you to create something you are proud to show the world. I see potential in everyone I encounter and I hope you all realize just how much you are capable of. Let your light shine bright for all to see and don't be discouraged by negativity. You have a lot to offer and I wish you the best of luck on your learning journey.

We could not say it any better. Thank you Claudia for being a part of this incredible program. Your participation plays such an important role in the success of The Beat Within.

This issue goes out to all you youth who have taken the initial steps in continue to create the special and respectful pieces that, as Claudia stated, "are proud to show the world." Speaking of proud to show the world, please take a few moment to read the amazing writings that are featured on page 4 from Proyecto Cuéntame, you will not be disappointed. The writing contributed by these young women teaches us all so much, and for that we are so thankful.


Volume 18.15/16 Editor's Note

The other day our colleague and friend, Steve Serna, sent us, which he always does, the monthly edition of the BCYSC (Bernalillo County Youth Services Center) newsletter, out of New Mexico. Steve is the man behind putting together this fabulous monthly newsletter for his respected juvenile probation department and courts. As he always does, he includes Beat writings from his weekly sessions.

This go round, he also shared his own observations from one of the weekly writing sessions, which moved us to ask for his permission to reprint his work.

With that said, Bernalillo County has been a partner of The Beat's for well over five years. We are honored to share the following from our dear friend and colleague, Steve Serna, and are equally impressed by the writing from the young people in his workshops, which are featured in this fabulous double issue (18.15/16) of writing and art from the hall and beyond. Take it away Steve!

Wow! It's amazing the life stories one hears in the group "The Beat Within." With today's group I went from nine residents to four girls. The five that didn't come were in another group or on a program. The topics were: that important conversation, to the moon, tough times and sharing the good, and then the quote of the week. It turns out the topic "to the moon" struck a different cord than what was written as the topic. In reference to the topic what was asked was, "If money were no object where would you go and what would you do?" The topic seemed simple enough to me, but it was anything but simple to the group.

To the group, the discussion started off about their drug of choice, and how it took them "to the moon." As always, I'm nosey so I started asking questions such as, their age now, their age when they started doing drugs, who got them started on drugs, about their parents; of the four, one started using drugs at the age of eleven, one at the age of fourteen and the other two at fifteen. Of the four, their drug of choice was Meth.

As a parent of two girls, I sit here and can only wonder how did we fail our children as a society? From the get go, all four of these girls were dealt a losing hand without the chance of success, but yet each day these girls moved forward and did whatever they had to survive, deal with the lives they were given; in the end they did what they had to in order to stay alive. No matter the cost to their lives or anyone else's life, (because for them it made no difference) they had to survive and survive they did.

As our discussion progressed, I soon learned that one of the girls was born in prison, and a second one missed being born in prison by a month or less. For all four, they were each born into a world, a society, a community, a home, a family -- all full of drugs, violence, and simply; turmoil.

Now they sit in lock-up, waiting for trial and none are aware of what their outcome might be; all they can do is sit and wait to see what the court system will decide for them because they now no longer have a choice in life. The choices they had have now been taken away, leaving them helpless in mind and body. For now, it's a waiting game with no right direction; all they can do now is put one foot in front of the other and wait on the decision from people they don't know and may never meet. Many have told them, "You had your chance, and blew it. Now it's our turn to make the choices for you." The choice-makers base their decision with what they have read on paper, not what they know of the "person"; to the choice-makers, the person no longer matters and it's all about what they have on file.

The first part of group was a chatter of drug use they've seen or have done in their past. Then we had a discussion about the violence they have each had to endure at their young age, but that was short- lived because the violent part of their past was something I felt they only wanted to forget. We then had a discussion about their addiction. It seemed they all started off with a similar drug and ended with a similar drug, yet totally different drug from the one they each started with. Marijuana and alcohol were the first substances they started. By the time they got booked into detention, they were each doing meth or heroin. At the end of our discussion, we talked shortly about life's desperation and what was next for them.

As our discussion's come to an end, their minds started rolling and the pencils started to flow. I sat and watched as the intensity of each pencil, line after line, was pressed to the paper. Halfway through their writings I sat and listened in total silence; one would let out a sigh, a deep breath, or sound of hurt, or even a sniffle, as if tears were ready to soak the paper. That is when my mind wanders to my two girls, and the thought of some of the wrong choices they have made, yet compared to what could have been is only minor. I can't imagine the thought of losing either of them, especially to a drug known as "meth" or any drug for that matter. As I always say, one step at a time, but take your time. We're all given a choice, let's just hope it's the right one.

Now over an hour later, each have written a piece that is three to four pages long; as I read them, each piece is just as powerful as the next one I read. The girls smile and laugh as they read a few of them out loud. One or two make the comment "I could just start to cry". In the end, each make a comment that all will be well soon, all they need is a little more time, and they will be able to go home again.

As I sit and think about it, it's a sad reality of what they say. It's even more sad knowing they will be back into the same environment, same group of friends, same crime-filled streets; yet the saddest part is they will all go right back into the same drug-infested environment they are so desperately trying to get away from. Something has to change, something has to give. The questions always stands, who? Who will stand to start that change?


What more can we add? Steve says it all in this fabulous commentary about a recent Beat workshop. We can't agree more with Steve, that the workshops are special and truly telling. We do wish more people who work with our young people in the system could experience what we experience through the conversations we have on the various topics each week.

This issue goes out to the young writers in the Bernalillo County Youth Service Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We cannot thank you enough for sharing your art, and your truths with The Beat Within community.


Volume 18.13/14 Editor's Note

Welcome loyal Beat editorial note readers. Welcome to double issue 18.13 and 18.14! It is with great honor to have this moment to spill some words onto page 2 aka the editor's note. First off, this issue features absolutely stellar pieces of writing from the various counties we lead workshops in each week, as well as a host of powerful pieces sent to us from all over the country, which are proudly featured in the BWO section.

With that said, we want to thank every single contributor who takes the time to share a part of themselves with The Beat Within. Your stories, your art, means so much to us here at The Beat, and to our ever growing readership.

Speaking of our growing readership, did you know The Beat Within has a Facebook page? The Beat Within Facebook page, like our writing workshops and our priceless publication, is organically growing and finding such an amazing following. We cannot thank our Facebook friends enough for taking the time to read, to "like" and to comment on the pieces and art we share daily on our page. The Beat Within Facebook pages makes it a point to at least share two written pieces of work a day with our FB readers, though some days we post three, four, and maybe even five stellar pieces for our wonderful and loyal followers.

Now who are these followers, definitely a host of them are our friends, our colleagues and family. Others are former workshop writers, even some current writers and students who somehow have figure out how to connect with Facebook from the bowels of the system, to community workers and professionals in the know..

We are proud to say there is also a host of people we do not know, who are friends of friends, and there are those, people and programs, we have never heard of, who just so happened to stumble into our world, and for that we thank you. We are honored that you appreciate the writing, the work, that means so much to us here at The Beat Within.

In the last year, we have grown leaps and bounds, at least in our eyes, and it is a matter of a month, or two, we predict, when we hit the 1000 "like" mark. Currently we are knee deep in the 800s, (as of today 4/3/13) 829 to be exact.

Before we move on, we just have to say one more time, THANK YOU, for the love and the support. By your sharing, your reading and your listening, it makes a huge difference in this world. We have heard from some of our friends who were once in the system, and they too are so touched by your loyalty and comments that you share on Facebook.

One final note, in regards to social media, we are also happy to inform you, that we do have a Twitter account/handle too. We usually post art pieces and meaningful quotes as well as periodically sending out announcements. To find us on Twitter, go to @_thebeatwithin.

This issue goes out to all our friends on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for following us. Thank you for believing in our work, and believing in the voice of the voiceless.

Download Voulme A/B 18.13/14


From Digital Storytellers


The Beat Within documentary from 1998

Credit to!


Hi Beat Volunteers!

How are you all doing? Wanted to pass on this cool video from an SF State Student, with an appearance by The Beat Within, on the importance of trauma workers taking care of themselves.

So please everyone, take care of yourself!! It is nasty cold and flu season and many of you have been suffering with that, so stay warm! Please know again, how much we appreciate all of your dedication and work and support, we really could not do it without you!!

thank you,

Lisa Lavaysse
Program Director & Volunteer Coordinator


Editor's Note

Welcome to another fabulous double issue, 18.09/10, of The Beat Within. Inside you will find plenty of writing and art to go around. There is so many thoughtful pieces to read. As always, we are impressed with the writings in the front of the magazine, knockout POWs and CoPOWs, as much as we are impressed with the writings from our BWO writers in the back, who definitely hold up their end. Before you take on this week's issue, we encourage you to read this week's editorial note, which is written by our colleague, Jess Schlessinger. We are honored to have Jess' voice shine on this page, as she gets things started on behalf of The Beat Within. Welcome!

People come to volunteer with The Beat for more reasons than I could list in this essay. Some of us come because we know what it's like to be in the system and want to show you (youth in juvenile hall) that, despite the systematic odds against you, each of you have some sort of urgency for changing your lives (even though it may feel hopeless at times). Some of us need an extracurricular activity for graduate school applications, others are writers looking to develop our careers, and a few just have something inside of us that feels empty unless we give back to our community. I think regardless of the reason that each facilitator begins with The Beat Within, the incredible thing is that we continue to work with you guys for different reasons than why we began. Volunteer work is complicated, and to say that everyone is doing it simply out of the goodness of our hearts would be an insult to your intelligence. It's that same intelligence, the same creativity and life stories of the youth inside, that manifest some sort of interesting phenomenon that happens when the "student" ironically teaches the "teacher."

For myself, I began working with The Beat Within because I felt that I had something to offer as someone who hasn't always had the easiest lot in life. I love working with youth, I'm passionate about social justice within the prison system, and I write. When I tell people that I volunteer for a couple hours a week with kids in juvie, they give me this praise as if I'm doing something absolutely incredible for humanity. To be honest, I don't feel like I'm working extremely hard or suffering immensely dealing with troubled youth; I'm having fun. Maybe I am the youth whisperer... but more likely is that you all are just pretty awesome. Part of the problem when one gets into the system is the stigma associated with being "troubled" or a "criminal." In my eyes, I have seen nothing but youth being respectful, introspective, creative, intelligent, and entertaining (this is not to say that everything is rainbows and lollipops. There is a reason why you are in the system, and even though it's complex and I don't want to demonize you, it's also not helpful to make you seem angelic... I'm not naïve, you've told me your stories!). I'll make fun of you for pretending you go to the club when you are thirteen-years old, and validate you when you tell me stories of hard times or enlighten me with wise philosophy. It's amazing how intelligence and knowledge comes in so many different forms.

So at the end of the day, I hope that I'm helping by spending a few hours facilitating workshops on writing and art. I hope that The Beat gives you something to look forward to each week. I hope that this publication makes change, even so slight, in the lives of youth that deserve better from our society. I think this is the case (at least for some of you), but if not, what I do know is that you are bettering my life. So if any of you crazy kids read this, know that if my attempts to make your locked up life a little easier are not working, at least you are doing something incredible. And if you can do it once, you can definitely do it again.

Thank you Jess for sharing such a thoughtful and wonderful piece of writing with us readers. We are honored to have you be a part of this magical journey through The Beat.

Moving right along, lets dedicate this issue to all you powerful Beat women, young and old, given March is National Women's History Month. Thank you all for what you do. Keep teaching. Keep sharing and keep believing.

Download Voulme A/B 18.09/10


Editor's Note

Welcome back Beat readers. We have no idea how many of you are out there, but we are grateful you read us. What you have in your hands is our latest double issue, 18.07/08. The writing as far as this editor is concerned, is fabulous. The many pieces in this issue will tug on your heart strings, will move you to tears, will make you truly look at yourself and the life you are leading, for better or for worse. With that said, it is with great pleasure to bring you some of the most important voices in the world, as they courageously share a part of their lives with you. The writing comes from the heart, as does this editorial note and the host of comments attached to each piece.

Of course there are many publications in the world, but as far as we know, there is none like what you have in your hands today. The Beat Within is one of the most unique publications because it brings together writers from all over the land, who sadly, find themselves within the criminal justice system. Where else can you get such a hand on the pulse of our youth and those who are in the criminal justice system all at different points and crossroads? As far as we are concerned, these writers have the answers, or hopefully are on the verge of finding their answers. They know what's working and what's not. The question is, is there still time to mend what's broken? We believe for most of them there is, yet that "fix" is different for each Beat contributor. With that said, these writers and artists have this priceless platform, this anchor, this lifeline to share with The Beat Within community to educate and shed light to us readers, be it young or old, student or teacher, lawyer or judge, friend or enemy, parent or community leader. We are here to listen to these individuals who are living in constant struggle as they are figuring out how best to navigate in (the system) and hopefully one day navigate out in their communities, free of the system.

The Beat Within, due to our commitment and hard work, has touched so many lives weekly in our writing and conversation workshops, and twice a month through our publication. What is the secret? How does The Beat manage to be in all these places and in all these places get so many writers to contribute their thoughts, their art with the world? The answer is simple, it's being consistent. It's about being transparent. It's about being a good listener. It's about building relationships and treating our contributors with great respect. This is across the board, from the powers that be, to the youth we serve daily, to those we have never embraced. The Beat Within wants all of our friends, colleagues, partners and allies to have a sense of ownership towards the work we do. Our success is built on teamwork, being open minded to the work, to our writers and artists, to the system who so kindly opens the doors to us each week to allow our writers this golden opportunity to share stories and learn from one another.

We send you all great respect for opening your hearts to The Beat Within and this amazing community. Please do not hesitate to give us a shout out. We would love to hear from you. Please let us know how you are doing. We care. We want to hear from you and are always touched by your kindness, your letters and your stories. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your lives. This issue goes out to you readers who feel the love and respect we hope to express in this note.

Download Voulme A 18.07/08

Download Voulme B 18.07/08


Editor's Note

Welcome Beat editorial note readers. Before we get to our special guest writer and colleague, Shreya Lakhan-Pal, who has so kindly offered her story in this week's editorial, we want to welcome the writers and artists from the Alternative Education County Community School in Marin County and the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center in Champaign, Illinois. We are excited about our new partnerships, and having these new voices join The Beat community. We know you will appreciate this latest double issue (18.05/06) that is filled with important stories from the "Feature of The Week, to our POWs, CoPOWs, standouts and BWOs. Now before you scope out the rest of this priceless issue, we encourage you to read Shreya's thoughtful note and take a glimpse of the writing prompts that were discussed prior to most of the writing featured in this latest Beat.

29 January 2013

As someone who has always enjoyed teaching, I've been involved with my fair share of educational organizations. I had to stop and ask myself why, after all this, it was The Beat Within that became my favorite part of the week, and what about the kids at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center made me so excited to see them. In the first workshop I ever attended, I spoke with a student who was sitting alone with his hood up and who started the conversation with quiet one-word answers. By the end of the workshop, I knew what kinds of things he liked and what books he was reading; I saw him straighten up and a light flicker in his eyes.

The Beat provides these kids with a space to communicate, which is really one of the most important aspects of humanity. It's not just about being "smarter" or finding a place in the job market. Everyone is capable of feeling the same emotions and having the same thoughts, but being able to put those into words and really understand yourself is so liberating. Finding a place to share those words is even better. It's remarkable how much sense we can make of our thoughts if we just write them out or say them, and often it gives us perspective to see it all laid out. It can also help us feel more in control of ourselves and where we go next. Each week I hope to hear how someone has chosen to convey their story. In my experience, I've found that having a supportive audience can encourage you to keep writing, and remind you how important your story is.

Many of the students I meet are grappling with situations in their lives that I, coming from a completely different background, can hardly even grasp. I am constantly having conversations or reading pieces that are insightful and honest, allowing me a look into these worlds. They help me understand the students and even give me a new lens through which to view my own life. Seeing all these eloquently written pieces reminds me that language also isn't just about transferring information and boxing complex ideas into words. It's about the way we manipulate our phrases to recreate a picture or a moment in time and add poetry into everyday sentences. It's about appreciating the beauty of seeing meaning in a bunch of letters arranged in different ways. It's about trying to explain the most complicated emotion we've ever felt to someone who couldn't possibly understand, using just the words we already know. These are the times when English (or whatever your preferred language is) feels so vast yet so limited. And that's why I'm amazed when, week after week, the kids at the Hall take it upon themselves to express themselves as fully as possible.

So to the writers of The Beat Within, I challenge you to write about something new, and keep finding new ways to create pictures and stories with your words. To the readers at home, take a moment to sit down and pen a poem, write a story, spit a rap, and learn from your own words.

Beautiful! Shreya, thank you once again for sharing your insight with us readers. What more can we say? This issue goes out to you writers who are featured in this wonderful issue of writing and art from the inside. Thank you so much for believing in yourself and sharing your truths.

Download Voulme A/B 18.05/06


Editor's Note

Greetings Editorial Note readers, The Beat Within is back with another fabulous edition of insightful writing and art from the inside. We are honored to give you yet another double dose of writings from issue 18.03 and 18.04.

Well readers a couple things before we hand over the baton to our wonderful colleague Simone. First off, pay attention to our new address we moved up the street from 275 9th Street to 209 9th Street. After almost 10 years at the same location, our lease was up, and we had no choice but to move our digs, and so far it's working out quite nicely, as we are adjusting to the new office environment. We encourage you, if you are free, to come by and say hello, otherwise, don't hesitate to send us your writings and art. With that said, we appreciate your patience with us in getting your work featured in The Beat. Thank you.

Secondly, The Beat Within is definitely featuring writing and art daily on our fabulous Facebook page. Please-please-please, "like" us, tell your friends and family to "like" us too. The more "likes" the better. Currently we have an ever-growing fan base. With that said, drop by and say hello. Let us know what you think!

Now, lets hand over the keyboard to our colleague and friend Simone, who truly plays a vital role in leading workshops, the editing and pulling together of the pieces that are featured in the BWO section, to name a few of her responsibilities. Simone...!

I was drinking tea the other day and attached to the bag was a note that said, "Wisdom becomes knowledge when it is personal experience." Normally, tea tags are corny and impersonal, but this time I read the quote over and over again, digging to the core of what it meant and drawing from real life experiences to make sense of it.

First, I thought about what "wisdom" is and the ways it's used in society. Wisdom is generally regarded as a life lesson that's passed down to us from generations of people who have experience with it. For example, when we're children, parents tell us not to touch the stove while it's on because it will hurt us. We're aware of the stove's possible danger, we're aware that it's wrong to touch the stove, but still there's this little voice in the back of our head that wonders what would happen if we touched the stove.

So what happens when we do touch the stove? We get burned, our body is jolted, we may cry a little, depending on how young we are. Now, we know what happens when we touch the stove, because of our personal experience with it. Now, we can advise our younger siblings or our friends to not touch the stove when it's on because we've been there and done that, but will they take our word for it? Or will they need to find out for themselves?

Of course, this quote applies to more than just touching a stove that's on. What happens when people who have experience with a certain situation try to advise us on what to do when we're in that situation? Sometimes we consider what they have to say and maybe we listen to them, but most times we have to face that situation ourselves to learn from it. We are creatures who learn through experience, through trial and error, through personal involvement with the world.

Lots of the writing that comes to us at The Beat has to do with the writer wishing that he/she had listened to their parents, their peers, their counselors etc., when they had been given advice on what to or not to do. However, learning the hard way by making the mistake yourself is what sticks with you the most. It's what gives you perspective and helps you evaluate problems in the future. Those mistakes are what make you into a fuller, more knowledgeable human.

While listening to the advice of others can spare us from experiencing that hardship ourselves, there will always be that little voice in the back of our heads that asks, "why?" or "why not?" That's not to say we should be experiencing everything to learn about its consequences, but rather, we should learn from the mistakes we make, take the knowledge that personal experience gives us, and apply it to the way we think about life in the future.

Wonderful! Such insightful wisdom. Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us readers. All right, this issue goes out to you Beat writers who have the courage to share a part of you with us readers, and from sharing and thinking about your actions, in the end, have made you a better person. We appreciate your story. We can't thank you enough for sharing your truths. Please note, your writing is helping so many of us.

Download Voulme A/B 18.03/04


Editor's Note

Here we sit working diligently to complete this first double issue (18.01 and 18.02) of our 18th year, hoping, wishing and planning that the new year – lucky 2013, will bring us the things we wish for the most.

At The Beat, that means another year of publications of the kind of writing you can find nowhere else: hearts on the printed page, sometimes filled with tears, sometimes with joy, sometimes with hate, sometimes with love.

We also long for continued financial support from our devoted funders, thank you, as well as, plenty of opportunity to introduce our work to new individuals and funders.

Also, to support and build off of the great work from our many, many volunteers and collaborative partners who bring The Beat each week into their respected institutions. We can't thank you all enough, be it the ones who enter the hall each week, to the ones who step up behind the computers and type, edit and respond to the many entries we receive each week.

In the end, it is our heartfelt New Year's wish that you ALL are able to breathe free air, or at least prepare for the day when that breath of fresh air comes your way. As we wish for freedom to ring throughout the land, we bring you the first issue of 2013, filled as always, with gems of insight, with hope, and with dark stories of real lives trying to maneuver through these crooked streets searching for freedom.

Before we let you go, we want to send a special thank you to our dear colleague and friend, school teacher, Susan Pope, who recently retired in Tuscumbia Alabama. Susan played such a special role in bringing The Beat, down South, in 2011, to the young people she touched daily as a teacher in the local juvenile hall. We cannot thank Susan enough for reaching out, taking the initial steps in implementing The Beat Within program as a part of her curriculum. This first issue of 2013 goes out to you Susan, and also Megan Roper, who is continuing Susan's great work in juvenile hall, and all teachers who see the good in The Beat Within and in children everywhere. Thank you.

We leave you with a Happy New Year, and an excerpt from an old editor's note Susan wrote for The Beat last year…

Through reading The Beat, I often see some writers who are already beginning to show an underlying talent for being a "keeper of hope". Many of them have discovered the strength of inspiring others to keep hope through the opportunity they have had to write for The Beat.  In fact, those who help others keep their hope, will in turn be strengthened with hope themselves. So, for all of you who share your heart and voice with The Beat, keep it up!!  You never know who all (besides yourself) is being helped through your stories and words of encouragement shared in the midst of a tough time yourself.

  For everyone who facilitates a workshop or spends hours preparing the publication in any way, know that your unselfish efforts and time spent to help these young people will produce fruit in the lives of many at just the right time. In fact, I leave you with a verse from the Bible that often helps to keep me focused on what is important. Galatians 6:9 says, "Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart."  Blessings and peace to all!

Thank you Susan, the doors of The Beat Within are always open for you.

Download Voulme A 18.01/02

Download Voulme B 18.01/02


Around The Web

The Beat Within is mentioned and quoted in the following articles. Always flattering.

Youth Today

The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Illustration From The Beat Within

We cannot thank Steve Serna, our amazing colleague and friend, who is responsible for this beautiful book. When Steve is not working on this book, he is leading Beat writing workshops with the young people in the Bernalillo County Juvenile Hall in New Mexico. And, when he is not doing that, he is one of the most amazingly dedicated counselors inside juvenile hall, and for that reason, we are so grateful. Thanks Steve!

Open publication

Editor's Note

Welcome editorial note readers to our latest double issue (17.21/22) of writing and art from the inside. This week we not only have a host of great writings and art to share with you all, but, to start things off, we have our dear friend, Lee Rhyanes, from New Mexico who has kindly offered to write this week's editorial note. We do want to add, that our partnership with him and Voice Behind Walls is incredible. We are honored to work with Lee and the young people he touches each week.

What's up Beat, my name is Lee Rhyanes, and I'm the director and co-founder of a program called Voices Behind Walls, a creative writing and Hip Hop music recording workshop in a New Mexico juvenile detention center called the J. Paul Taylor Center (JPTC).  The JPTC is located at the southernmost edge of the state, in a city called Las Cruces, right along the state line with Texas and along the border with the country of Mexico.  I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, which is about a forty-five-minute drive from Las Cruces.  El Paso is a border community, and is no more than a stone's throw away from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.  Our border community (El Paso and Juarez) is considered one of, if not the biggest in the world with a population of close to three million combined.  Most of my three decades on earth have been spent in these three areas (El Paso, TX; Las Cruces, NM; and Juarez, Mexico).  I hope the location description didn't confuse you all, but it's in this region where the concept for our program began when we first started in El Paso's juvenile detention center and it's where many of the youth that have participated in our program are from, including areas throughout the state of New Mexico such as Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Silver City, Carlsbad, Hobbs, Roswell, Truth or Consequences, Albuquerque, etc. 

In 2003, I was an undergraduate studying Criminal Justice and English at New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Las Cruces.  Around this time I also got the opportunity to join the Ronald E. McNair Graduate Assistantship at NMSU.  The purpose of this program was to help students like myself, who were the first in their family to go to college, with understanding the process to getting a Masters or a Doctorate degree.  They named it after Ronald E. McNair who was the second African American astronaut to fly in space.  He was also a black belt in Karate and a jazz musician.  In 1986, Dr. McNair was killed just 73 seconds after his spaceship took off.  The spaceship disintegrated above the Atlantic Ocean.  The same year he died, the Department of Education decided to establish an achievement program that was named after him in effort to help financially challenged, first-generation college students.

The idea for the Voices Behind Walls program and my relationship with The Beat Within began back in 2003 while I was in the Ronald E. McNair program at NMSU.  I discovered The Beat Within because I was looking for resources that would help me encourage juvenile detention facilities to allow students, educators, and volunteers like myself to come in and host writing workshops.  I feel that The Beat Within has helped areas such as ours begin to understand how incarcerated youth can develop their literacy and craft as writers, thinkers, and artists through the power of a publication like The Beat.  It gives a great reason to want to write, to want to share, to want to read, and to want to be a part of a writing community that goes beyond state lines around the country.  It also gives programs such as ours Voices Behind Walls, which focuses primarily on the audio recording of poems, Hip Hop rhymes, and music production, to be able to equip our workshops with publication that allows youth with another outlet to share their thoughts and to learn, read, and think about the experiences and lessons being created by other youth and adults. 

In this editorial, which is the first I've done for The Beat, I wanted to write briefly about where we're from, one of the moments that inspired the beginning of our Voices Behind Walls program, and how The Beat has helped us move forward over the past seven-years.  It's been a journey of ambitious ideas and learning.  Each year, we're constantly discovering new ways to document creative expression, whether it's through a new approach in how we record poems, produce music, or through the availability of new equipment, or through the involvement of people that are interested in visiting with us and contributing to what we got going on.  I want to send much respect to the youth that have been involved with our program.  You'll find poems in this publication (see page 4) from several recent Voices Behind Walls participants along with a poem from back when, that we dug up from one of our most talented poets, Michael G. called "Mind Decay".  Included also are poems from MC/producer Manny who has since been released, some new work from Tyler, a talented poet who keeps up with the latest copies of The Beat, and a piece from Joe Eddy, who recently moved on to his next phase, leaving us with his collection of poems that he's been writing this year. Much respect to all the readers/writers of The Beat Within and to supporters of community initiatives out there that are invested in new and innovative ways to helping youth and adults educate one another.   Til' the next time, be well everybody and be sure to check us out at Peace.

That's some Beat love! Thank you Lee. We'll be knockin' on your door for future editorial notes, and can't wait to include more writings from the young people in the JPTC.

This week's topics for 17.21 are, 1. "Skills" - You're in a job interview for your dream job. Tell us about your skills, and how you would approach a job interview. Also, feel free to tell us, successful or not, of past interviews you have been on. Give us the details.

2. "Parents" - What have you learned from how your parents raised/ are raising you? Since some of you are already parents, what qualities from your mom and dad are you teaching/ will teach your own kids? What did your own parents do right that was helpful, wise, kind, understanding? On the flip side—what are things you know you WON'T do with your own child(ren)? What, from what you've already experienced as a young person from the adults who raise you, will you value, and hopefully, use, to manage your children one day?

3. "Being Liked" - How important is it to you that you are liked by the people around you? Share with us your thoughts on what it means to be liked, or not.

4. "The last time I asked for help was when..."

For issue 17.22, the topics are, 1. "Spiritual Journey" - How do you know how far along you are on your spiritual path?  Share with us your thoughts and a part of your spiritual journey, that brings us to you, today.

2. "To Be Me" - The Beat often works and presents to young people who are not locked up in juvenile halls or other detention programs. We want you to write these other youth a letter and tell them about yourself, your life, your situation, your dreams for the future. Show them a side of you that they would have never thought about. What is it like to be you? What was/is your home, school and social life like? Educate those who know nothing about where you come from, and have no idea what is it like to be locked up.

3. "To Trust" - Many of you write pieces about how you don't trust anyone, only yourself. Or, in some cases, you only trust the people closest to you. Is it better to trust everyone and potentially be hurt by it, or it is better to always be cautious of people? This week, share your thoughts on trust and how it plays a role in who you are today, and in moving forward with your life.

All right readers, this issue goes out to our partner, Lee Rhyanes and the young writers at the JPTC in New Mexico, who participate in Voices Behind Walls. 

Enjoy the read! It's a good one!

Download Voulme A 17.21/22

Download Voulme B 17.21/22

FRIDAY, 18 MAY 2012

Editor's Note

Welcome to the latest issue of The Beat Within. We know you will find many words of wisdom among these pages and we hope you take the time to read as much of it as possible, since everyone has their own wisdom to share.

Before we get into the topics, we wanted to take the time to explain this issue a little bit. It has been more than a year since our rebirth in March 2011 and The Beat is still consistently trying to find ways to be a leaner program (doing more with less money), while still doing the work we do.

We are continually growing; organically adding new programs and writing--like Marietta, Georgia and Tuscumbia, Alabama-- which means our publication is growing as well. There has been so much amazing, thoughtful and beautiful writing coming from all our program sites, new and old, that The Beat is often well over 80-pages, chock full of great writing and art.

Working with an issue that is that large has been a challenge for the program, as we do need to print so many copies for our local program sites. So we came together to brainstorm and see if there was a more cost efficient way to get the publication down to a moderate size without having to cut the words of any of the youth and adults that take the time to write for us.

So, for issue 17.19/20, we are going to try out a new way of printing The Beat, in two volumes – Volume A and B. Both Volume A and B will have the SAME The Editorial Note, Pieces of the Week (POW), Co Pieces of the Week (CoPOW), The Beat Without (BWO), and any Features of the Week. This means that it will be an EXTRA honor for a piece to be nominated for POW or CoPOW because it will appear in both volumes and be read nationally.

As for the Standout section, the programs will be spilt into the two volumes as follows:

Volume A will be predominantly the Bay Area which will have writing from: San Francisco, Marin, Solano, Alameda, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara.

Volume B will have writing from Fresno, Monterey, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside and states outside of California such as writing from: Portland, Alabama, Washington DC, Hawaii, Dallas, Georgia and New Mexico.

We are hoping that this new format, though a work in progress, will save The Beat some money in printing because the issues will be smaller. It will also give The Beat Without (BWO) section a chance to have a little more meat to it and allow for more space for art--which we know many of you have been asking for.

We are testing this out to see how it works logistically and printing wise and would love feedback from all writers, facilitators and anyone else who enjoys The Beat. We know that this is a change from what we have been doing for so long, but The Beat needs to evolve to be able to continue to serve such a large population of readers and writers.

Though right now we have a Volume A and B, we would not be surprised if in the not too distant future we add a Volume C and even a Volume D, especially given the demand of the publication by other institutions around the state and beyond.

Now, onto the topics for both Volumes A and B. From the week of 17.19:

"Lessons Learned" - Sometimes there is knowledge and intelligence that can't be learned from a classroom or a textbook. Sometimes the most important lessons are the ones we learn in social situations, or with our family  and friends. What are some lessons that you learned that weren't taught in the classroom? Who do you learn these "life lessons" from, parents, siblings, mentors, friends? What was so important about this lesson and is it information that you use every day? What have you learned from your experience that you would share with your younger friends, children, nieces and nephews? What have you learned from you current situation? What can you teach other about your experience with the police, the hall, probation and  the courtroom?

"Life Events" - What are the five most important events in your life so far? Share with The Beat five sentences about a few important events in your life. What happened? Who was there? Did you celebrate or were you sad? Was it a person that came into your life--family, friend, child? Was it a party, a fight, or an accomplishment? Did you travel somewhere? Was it coming to juvenile hall or hearing your sentence? Tell us what important things have happened in your life so far and WHY they were so important to you.

"Your Dream House" - As we grow up, we often dream about the home/apartment/place we want to live and what it would look like. And sometimes our imaginations run wild. So describe to The Beat what your dream home would look like. Where is it? Is it in the city or the country? How many floors does it have? How many bedrooms? Who lives with you there? What would you definitely want to have--a yard, a pool, a place for the kids to play? What are the things you wish you had in a home when you were growing up that you dream about for your future. Let your imagination run wild."

And from 17.20…

"Birthday Present" - When it comes time for our birthday's, many of us know exactly what we want and we ask our loved ones for it. Sometimes we don't know what we want and our parents, family, friends, surprise us with something amazing. What was your most memorable or favorite birthday present you ever received? Was it something you had been asking for or was it something unexpected and surprising? How old were you when you got it? Do you still have it? If you still have it, are you attached to it? Does it still hold the same special meaning it did that birthday? If you don't have it, what happened to it? If you can't think of a favorite birthday gift you've gotten, is there one that you were really proud to give to someone else? Who did you give it to and why were you so proud to give it?

"Technology" - Have you ever seen a cassette or VHS tape? 20 years ago, that's how people listened to music and watch movies, before CD's, MP3's and DVD's. How important is technology (cell phones, computers, video games) in your life? Do you remember a time before any of those things were available to you either at home or at school? Have you seen technology change in your lifetime, how? What do you think our world will be like in 10 or 20 or 30 years from now? What will technology look like?

"Birth Control"- When unmarried teenagers have sex, whose responsibility is it to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies or unwanted STDs? We ask this question because of the number of you who talk about "baby mamas" and "baby daddies." Both boys and girls have easy access to methods of birth control, so why do so many youth have babies when it's easy to protect yourselves? Do you remember the time and place a teacher, a friend, a family member spoke to you about safe sex/sex education? What was that like?  Did you take it serious?  What did you learn from the conversation?  Now, for those of you who do have children, what have you learned from the responsibility (and blessings) that you would share with your peers before they become parents? Tell us what parenting is like for you. Is there information or lessons you wish you took more serious, or wish someone had shared with you before you became a parent?  (This is a question that could easily lead to childish responses. We want you to take this question seriously, and to write thoughtfully… or choose a different topic.)"

Those are your topics for this latest issue of The Beat. Thank you so much to all of the people who make The Beat possible from all you writers, young and old, to all of our dedicated volunteers and facilitators in and out of the halls. This issue is dedicated to our Spring 2012 interns--many of whom graduated this past weekend. Congratulations and thank you for your time this semester with The Beat!

Download Voulme A 17.19/20

Download Voulme B 17.19/20


Autumn Darbrow is a Spring 2012 intern for The Beat Within. She has been focusing her work on The Beat Within portion of our program and has been instrumental in helping The Beat Without Letter Project take off.

Kicked to the curb

I fell in love really hard when I was 19 with a guy who, at the time, I thought was the greatest person. He had two kids to another woman and wasn't really doing much with his life, but I looked past all that. He was really good looking, could play music, was artistic, covered in tattoos, and he was the biggest sweetheart I'd ever met. He made me feel like I was loved more than any other woman in the history of man kind. So when he called me out of the blue while I was working to tell me that he wanted to break up and never wanted to see me again. I was devastated. I literally felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I quickly ran to the bathroom to call and talk to him. Turned out he had cheated on me with the mother of his children and was going to get back with her. I spent an hour and a half of my shift crying in the bathroom. When he came back a few months later saying he wanted to try again, I was elated, and we planned for him to move in with me. We were going to get married and then move back to his hometown after I graduated where we'd get a house and eventually custody of his kids. He was supposed to show up on Christmas to start this new life of ours. I decorated my apartment and make sure we had food and there were gifts for him. It was going to be great. He never showed though and never answered my calls. I didn't hear from him for months. It took a few years to get over him, but I managed to do it. Removal of him from my life helped a lot, but I went through a rough time before I finally accepted that he was never coming back. I still miss what we had a lot, and I'll probably never get that again, but you can't force someone to love you or to stay. The best you can do is pick up the pieces of yourself that were broke and move on down the road, never looking back.

What makes you special/unique

What makes me special is something I think a lot of people have in them but don't realize. I know from the last few years of my life that I am capable of handling a large amount of pain, whether this be physical or emotional. I surpassed my expectations in being able to handle three bouts of kidney stones, four surgeries on my back, two surgeries to remove cancerous cells, and the removal of my gall bladder. The surgeries and the time it takes to heal were not pleasant, but I survived all of it. I graduated high school and then college, and I am now working on my masters in a state 3,000 miles away from where I grew up, away from everyone I know. I didn't know it then, but I'm a survivor. I don't let things get in the way of what I want, and I think a lot of people have that strength. They might not realize it when they're going through those rough patches, especially if those rough patches seem to last forever, but the fight is there inside them. Anyone can do anything, if they put their mind to it and really fight for it.

Autumn Darbrow is a Spring 2012 intern for The Beat Within. She has been focusing her work on The Beat Within portion of our program and has been instrumental in helping The Beat Without Letter Project take off.

I have learned a two lessons revolving around trust during my time here on earth. The first was a hard one to have to experience and one that really opened my eyes, one that I was never taught in any textbook directly.

I've always been a very trusting person, even if I don't know the person very well. So, in my effort to help people out, I've opened up my living space to only find that I have been taken advantage of. People have used my kindness and hospitality as ways to steal things from me, important things. For example, in letting a now ex-boyfriend stay with me, he had the opportunity to learn the good and bad aspects of my apartment. This led to him easily being able to break in while I was at work and steal my really good laptop. I lost years worth of pictures, writing, homework, bill payment history, thousands of songs, etc. Those memories and parts of my life I will never be able to get back, and the ease of invasion on my privacy (and certain verbal threats) really had me concerned for my life in that apartment after that day. Fortunately, I was able to move out very fast and not look back on that experience. It taught me that, no matter what, you can't fully trust people.

The other lesson that I learned, though, through my times of financial crisis out here in the Bay Area, is that there are people that can be trusted. I may have been stepped on in the past by people taking advantage of my generosity and the amount of trust I place in people, but the people who have helped me out without fully knowing me or my character give me faith that there are those out there who really do appreciate the generosity I show them.

While you can't trust everyone, there's still hope that not all of humankind have turned into selfish monsters. That, I think, is the best lesson anyone can learn. Not everyone is out to hurt you; some people are genuinely kind and deserving of a helping hand when it's needed. Are you one of those people?

Autumn Darbrow is a Spring 2012 intern for The Beat Within. She has been focusing her work on The Beat Within portion of our program and has been instrumental in helping The Beat Without Letter Project take off.

I may be dating myself here a little bit, which is truthfully very odd to think about, but I remember a time before we had serious technological inundation. I remember, as a kid, learning how to type on large, boxy computers that took forever to turn on. We learned how to type through very pixilated images and words, and the game of that time was Oregon Trail. You had to try to make it across the Wild West in a covered wagon without dying of something like typhoid fever or get caught in a mountain pass like the Donner Party.

On top of that, we didn't have cell phones. Those came around when I was a teenager, and they were pretty bulky. Instead, we picked up the phone attached to the wall and only dialed local numbers because it charged you ridiculous amounts of money to make long distance ones.

I also remember cassette tapes and VHS movies. In fact, I had a pretty cool stereo that allowed me to make my own mixed tapes. Most were recorded straight from the radio though, so it took some trial and error to cut out the commercials. Even before that, though, I had my own little, yellow record player as a small child. My mom had bought me the Cabbage Patch Dolls records, and I remember playing another record that had the Yellow Submarine on it almost every day.

I had a little TV, too, that had a built in VHS player. So I started collecting Disney movies, especially the Beauty and the Beast series. That didn't last long, though, as did the cassettes, because they were quickly replaced with CDs and DVDs. Computers were updated so rapidly, too, but I at least remember a good couple of years where we had dial-up and all the AOL noises.

Those times weren't really that long ago, but it's still amazing how much technology we've produced just in the last year. It makes me wonder what they'll come out with next.


Editor's Note

Welcome back Beat editorial note readers! We are thrilled to present you, double issue 17.13/14. To be frank, this is some of the most heartfelt writing to come out of The Beat Within in sometime. Definitely a moving issue. Thank you all for taking the time to participate in our writing workshops, or for some of you, we appreciate you taking the time to write us your letters and stories from the faraway institutions we have never set foot in, though our nationally distributed publication surely has found it's way to your cell, dorm and/or unit. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your stories, and a part of you with the whole Beat community. Your words are priceless!

This week we have kindly asked our dear friend and colleague Cynthia Stone to share some of her wisdom in this week's editorial note. Before we let Cynthia share a part of her, we have to say how thankful we are to have her presence in our Solano County workshops, thank you! We are thrilled to include your writing in this week's editorial note. OK, Cynthia...

My ten year old son wrote a poem the other day.  I think it was just so he could get onto the computer for a while to eventually play games...but hey, whatever it takes.  I wanted to share it with you because it reminded me of the power of your words, that I have been honored to read these past months.  Thank you to all of you, and especially to the young people in Solano County where I volunteer, for sharing so much of yourselves in your writing.  It takes a lot of courage to do that.  I have been inspired by your work, your thoughts and your heart.

OK, here's the poem. What do you think?

Poems they float on your tongue
Like clouds
Like lava on a volcano
They can be rough like gravel under your foot
Like earthquakes on an old house.
Or they can be unpredictable
Like you...
The power of your writing has been like all of these things for me. Heartbreakingly beautiful like clouds, fiery as lava, harsh and filled with truth like a sudden earthquake.  Good writing is about reaching deep and truth-telling and having the guts to get it down on paper.  And all of you writers have plenty of that.

The last line got me thinking about the word unpredictable. What is predictable? Are there people predicting your future? Predicting what you will become, or won't become? Who is it for anyone else to judge what you will predict who or what you will be? That is your decision. That is your path to create. Your future is your own.

There's this guy, Victor Rios.  When he was a teenager he was in a gang. He dropped out of school, in trouble all the time, fighting, getting arrested.  What do you think people predicted for him?  What would you predict? He's now a professor at UC Santa Barbara.  He has a Ph.D. It took a lot of hard work. Small steps, some forward and then back and then forward again.  But he was you. And you can be him, or anyone you want to be. Don't let anyone tell you, you can't.

You have shared so many of your dreams in your writing.  Dreams of time...where time is your own again, where you wear your own clothes, where you can see the sky again unframed by concrete.  Mostly I read your dreams of being with your loved ones, of going back to school, making different choices and turning things around.

In my life, the act of writing has helped me. Because when you write, you go deep, you push yourself.  You probe your heart, your brain and your soul.  You can transcend wherever you are. It is also a way to solidify dreams.  If you can imagine something in your mind, every detail.  Putting it down on paper can make it more real. 

Here's a poem by a guy who is slightly more famous than my ten year old son, Langston Hughes.  I'm sure some of you know him.  He's not around any more, but his words always will be. Here's what he had to say about dreams and what can happen when they're not nurtured.  When they're deferred.

Dream Deferred
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up 
like a raisin in the sun? 
Or fester like a sore--
And then run? 
Does it stink like rotten meat? 
Or crust and sugar over-- 
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags 
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
-Langston Hughes
After meeting so many of you.  Hearing your dreams and your thoughts for your future.  I sincerely hope that you will not let your dreams dry up, or run, or sag, or explode.  But that you will honor your dreams with the respect they deserve.  Because they are yours.  They are you.  And your dreams deserve more respect than anything that threatens to take them away from you...that leads you away from the path that you yourself have envisioned for your life.

I know it's hard.  You go back to a lot of distractions.  My wish for you is that you seek out and find that one person who believes in you, even more than you believe in yourself, who can mentor you. A teacher, or a pastor or a parent.  Someone who believes in second chances. Who believes in dreams.  Make a path together. Or if you don't have a mentor, make a path yourself. Then walk that path.  And keep walking! 

Download Voulme 17.13/14


Editor's Note

Greetings Beat editorial note readers! Welcome to double issue, 17.11/12. There is so much to absorb in this week's issue, and there is so much to tell you in regards to what's going on with the program in general. We'll save our news for another time, given we have a treat for you... This week, our editorial note comes from one of our in-office interns, Autumn. Autumn is studying at California College of the Arts and working on her Masters in Creative Writing. Autumn has been an instrumental part of The Beat Within and The Beat Without over the last four months. She has helped us, The Beat Staff, make sure that our Beat Without writers know that they are heard and that their voices are important to us. So without further adieu, here is the editorial note from Autumn...

If you had come up to me five years ago, when I was graduating high school, and told me that I would have the honor to work on a publication where I read, edit, and publish writing by such brilliant, thought-evoking, touching writers who are incarcerated, I would have thought you were crazy.

While I wanted to head in that direction (I had originally wanted to become a psychiatrist who worked in juvenile halls and prisons), I instead enlisted in the Air Force. My time there was short and very painful, and I spent many days and nights in the medical squadron alone, sad, and hurting, separated from my friends and family with limited phone calls and few letters coming in. I spent much of my free time (which was a LOT) wondering why my life had taken such an unexpected turn and what in the heck I was gonna do when I got out.

Thanks to the only support I received, from my mother, I was able to enroll and eventually graduate from college with a degree in professional writing, an area in my life that had always been important, but one I thought could never make money. While I still struggle with finances, that awful turn five years ago had led me to where I am now—sitting in The Beat Within office typing this up.

My first experience with The Beat Within, though, was actually one of rejection, unbeknownst to those who run the publication. I moved out to California from Pennsylvania this past June, and I needed a job badly, as I was very quickly running out of the meager funds I'd saved to drive here alone and acquire a place to live.

I applied to an ad for an intern position at The Beat Within through a community center that works with my graduate school, California College of the Arts. The ad was only one of two writing/ editing positions on the school's entire job board, and I was most interested in The Beat's position. Unfortunately, it was given to someone else, but, thank my lucky stars, that person had to withdraw. Because I had expressed so much interest in working with the publication, I was given the position, and I've been spending a large majority of my week in the office ever since.

My main role here is working with The Beat Without section, and I absolutely love what I do. I couldn't be any happier than to read the works submitted by our adult writers, and it's really touching to be welcomed into such private conversations with these men and women.

Even though I am happy with where I am in life now and extremely happy with my role at The Beat Within, I had serious obstacles to overcome to get here, ones that dramatically changed the course of my life. While I don't usually provide advice for the youth reading these issues, I can tell y'all that there are things in life that are out of our control (you certainly already know that). The way we're raised, finances that never show, health problems that arise, these all can't largely be controlled, but how we react and adjust to these problems is what leads to the good and bad in life. Granted, stuff happens that can be awful, but we always have a choice to change the future; there are always options.

Download Voulme 17.11/12


Editor's Note

Welcome to another issue of The Beat Within! This week we have a very special guest writing our Editorial Note, Darcy Durham who is visiting the San Francisco office from St. Louis, Missouri. Darcy hopes to begin Beat workshops in St. Louis so she came to check out how we run things! Please take a moment to read Darcy's words.

So here I am my first day in San Francisco hanging out in the Beat Within office. I feel so lucky to be here, to learn what this program is all about so I can bring it back to St. Louis. Writing has always been an outlet for me. A place I can go to express my anger, sadness and joy. I grew up being told to keep all my emotions inside, but they had to go somewhere, especially the anger. I learned to throw everything out on the page keeping daily journals that released all the tension. I always felt better after I'd write, clearer and lighter.

Being a part of a writing group takes it to the next level. I've been involved in a writing group for four years. We write for twenty to thirty minutes and read our pieces out loud just like the Beat Within workshops. I don't always want to read because I don't think it's good enough to share, but every time I give voice to my writing I feel a sense of release. In reading out loud I face my own fear, let it go, and my writing comes to life. If someone in our group chooses not to read, I feel like there is a piece missing. I know they are thinking the same thing I was, that their piece isn't worth reading, but I know it is. We write about our own lives, what's going on in our heads and I want to hear everyone's voice. When we share our voices we help each other. Sometimes I write down lines from someone else's piece because they struck a chord with me, making me see something in a different light. Writing creates a connection, a bridge bringing me out of isolation and into community. I have a voice and people can hear me.

It's not always easy to get started, I think most of us experiences some fear in beginning to write. I try to just get my pen moving knowing that I can always cross it out and try again. The writing doesn't have to be perfect I just need to get it out. Usually once I get going it feels like a train taking off as if the writing has a life of its own as my voice starts to emerge on the page.

There are a lot of people who are not getting the opportunity to be heard. I started thinking about the absence of the Beat Within in St. Louis. Perhaps I can share what I've learned and hear new voices that can teach me in the process.

When I was asked to write the Beat's Editor's Note, I froze. My first thought was whoa I'm not ready for this, I don't think I can do it. Then I thought about the writer's who contribute to the Beat, the facilitator's and the staff that make it all come together and I realized why not? I love that the Beat Within connects voices from across the country, voices that otherwise might not be heard. We are all in this together getting our voices out there and It's a privilege to be a part of the experience.

Thanks for sharing your words and experiences with us, Darcy. And now on to this issue's topics. The topics from 17.07…" Day of Love! -- What is your perfect Valentines Day celebration? Keeping it PG, what would be your plans with your boyfriend/girlfriend/or just friend on this special day? If you can't think of something, tell us about a Valentines day from the past that you had with family, friends, classmates at school, or that special someone."

" Siblings -- What does it take to be a good brother or sister? Regardless of whether you the oldest or the youngest, what are the things you would do for a sibling? Do you set a good example? If you are an only child, what do you think it would take to be the best sibling? Tell us about your relationships with your brothers and sisters. Could it be better or is it already rock solid?"

"I wish other people could see __________ the way I do. Give us the details--not just the blank!"

And our topics from 17.08… "Dropping Out -- Your best friend/brother/sister told you they are going to drop out of school. What do you say to them to convince them not to? What is your case for keeping them in school, the reasons they should stay there? Have you ever been in this position before? What did you say or do? If you didn't say anything, why not?

"My Story -- You got caught. That's why you're here. This week, The Beat wants you to write a scene, like in a play, that tells us about the moments you got caught. Set the stage for us, where were you? A park, a store, your house? Then tell us who the characters are: your friends, foes, people you just met. Give us the play by play of how you ended up here through dialogue and description. But remember, your words CAN be used against you, so make sure to anonymize yourself, your friends and the location. Be creative!"

Last but not least, "The Opinion -- Who's opinion matters most to you? Is it your mom's? Or your dad's? An older or younger sibling? Your friends? Why does it matter so much? When you do something good, who's praise are you looking for? When you do something wrong, who's anger do you fear the most? Maybe they are two different people, maybe they are the same person, but tell The Beat who's opinion matter's most to you."

Thank you again, all you Beat readers for making this publication what it is. This issue is dedicated to all the brand new volunteers who have started in the last month. We thank you for your compassion, commitment and enthusiasm!

Download Voulme 17.07/08


Editor's Note

Welcome back Beat editorial note readers. We are thrilled to bring you our latest installment of writings that cover a huge chunk of California and beyond. Most of it comes out of the weekly workshops, for issue 17.05 and 17.06. In a few short moments, we'll fill you in on the topics/writing prompts that we discussed in those workshops. We also are really digging the latest batch of writings way in the back of this issue, or shall we say the real backbone of this publication, The BWO! This editor was left speechless by the great installment that is featured in this knock-out of an issue. We also encourage you to read Maria's courageous piece, "Twisted," truly cautionary and horrific.

Now, given how invested many of you readers are to the publication, we want you to know that the writing workshops and this publication would not be what it is today if it weren't for you contributors -- our amazing facilitators (many of which are volunteers and interns), our loyal typist/editors (who show up daily), and our volunteers/interns -- to take on the batch of writings that come out of the hall each writing session. They embrace the piles of letters we receive daily from many old and new friends outside of the institutions we visit each week. The writers send us thoughtful commentaries and poems to publish in our BWO section.

As many of you know, we work very hard to give you readers the best publication possible. It has been our motto since our inception in 1996. Frankly, and we stand by this, there is no better publication in the world that best represents the youth of today -- who find themselves trapped inside the juvenile justice system. Now, if we can only get the support to get your voices out to a wider audience!

Speaking of a wider audience, a couple weeks ago we had the privilege to visit the campus of UCSB in Santa Barbara, CA -- around a five hour drive south of San Francisco. We were invited to speak about The Beat Within, to nearly a hundred students, as guests of instructors Cissy and Richard Ross. Richard, by the way, is a well known photographer, whose latest work documents inside juvenile halls around the country. We must say, his work is incredible! As for our trip to UCSB, it was such an honor to share, as always, the work and the journey of The Beat Within. It was even more exciting to turn the students onto this important work, and to hear their enthusiasm and interest. Our lecture ended with still many-many hands in the air having questions for us. The Beat definitely brought a buzz to UCSB, that still to this day (two weeks later), we are still fielding questions on how one can participate/volunteer/intern with us.

Well, that is our goal. UCSB is interested in working with The Beat Within. As we begin our initial steps in building a partnership with not only the school, but also with the Santa Barbara County juvenile hall and camp.

The following day we met with leaders in their probation department, received a tour of Los Preitos Boys Camp, and the end result looks quite promising. We were asked to return to meet and conduct a trainer with their staff. We are looking at a possible return date in late February, early March.

Though our plates are incredibly full, we embrace this opportunity to expand our work into the Santa Barbara community.

Now, here are our topics for 17.05.

1. "The Real Me" - Does anyone in your life know the real you? Locked up or not, we all wear masks and it is sometime difficult to let down your walls and be open with people. Is there anyone in your life who knows you without the mask, who knows the real you? Who is that person? Were you always so open and honest with them? If there isn't someone who you can be totally real with, why not? Now tell us about the real you.

  2. "My Destiny" - The definition of Destiny:  The events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future. Do you believe in destiny? Do you believe that your life is planned out for you ahead of time, or you do you believe that it is within your power to change your life at any given point? Or, do you believe that there is something you are destined to accomplish in your life--a purpose for your life that you need to work to achieve? Tell The Beat how you feel about destiny, and what is your purpose.  

3. "My Teacher" - Is there a teacher who had an impact on you? Did they help you out when you were struggling in a class, or in school? Did they listen when you needed someone to talk to? Did they offer valuable advice? Tell The Beat about a teacher you had who was exceptional. Give us the details.

For 17.06... 1. "Teach Your Children Well" - What things as a society are we NOT teaching our children? What are the things you think are most important for every child to learn in order to be successful and happy? What was not taught to you by family/community, and how has that affected you? We look forward to reading your commentary and/or stories on this important issue

2. "Overcoming Fears" - What are you embarrassed to do in front of other people? you not like speaking in front of a crowd? What about asking out that girl/boy you're into? Do you prefer to dance in front of a mirror alone? Or are you shy about the art that you draw? All of us have things we much rather not showcase to the world/our friends or to that special person, so tell us what it is for that you are most embarrassed about doing in public. and if you did it, how did you overcome your fears? Give us the insight how you overcame your insecurities.

3. "The toughest lesson" - What have you learned from being in the system? What have you learned about yourself, your friends and family and the system itself? What are the things you are going to take away from this experience. Think about who you are and the things you knew before you came to this hall--how have you changed?

4. "I can't do without..." (Please keep this one Beat appropriate)

All right friends, this issue goes out to the late great Don Cornelius, founder of Soul Train. His tragic passing brought back a flood of memories for a number of us. His long running television show, "Soul Train," which ran for 35 years, was influential in many of our lives, especially those of us growing up in the '70s and '80s. We will part to you Beat readers the way he parted each Soul Train show, wishing his audience, "love peace and soul."

Download Voulme 17.05/06


Editor's Note

Greetings Beat editorial note readers! We are thrilled to be back with a host of great writings from our many contributors who have showered this latest issue (17.03 and 17.04) with plenty of their truths, as they either take on one of our prompts from the writing workshops, or have come up with their own words and wisdom on their own subjects that they felt the need to share with The Beat readership.

Late last year we were approached from our friend and colleague, Eddy Ameen, who lead Beat workshops a couple years ago in Miami, Florida. Well, Eddy who is currently living in Washington DC, was working on a story for the Youth Rising blog for SparkAction wanted to feature a young person who had come out of The Beat Within. Well, we put him in touch with our old friend Chris, who was willing to share his story with Eddy.

Well, this morning, while checking our emails, we saw an email from Eddy who informed us that the story on Chris was complete and up on the blog. Now, given most of you do not have access to the blog, given you are incarcerated, we reached out to Eddy, who in turn reached out to his editor, to seek permission for us to run his story in The Beat Within publication. With that said, the following article was originally published on, an online journalism and advocacy site to mobilize action by and for young people. We encourage you readers to visit when the time allows, plus, they are big fans of our work!

Now lets get to what Eddy wrote for, who so kindly has allowed us to reprint the piece! We hope you like it as much as we enjoyed the read, and BIG props to Chris for once again stepping up and sharing a part of his life with us readers.

Youth Rising: Writing Your Way out of Juvenile Detention

Author's Note:  A few years ago, I facilitated a weekly workshop with teens in a Florida juvenile detention center. The experience humbled me. I asked a youth who participated in similar workshops in California to tell me what it did for him.

Chris, a 20 year-old from Alameda County, California has a reason to be thankful for his participation in The Beat Within, a magazine written by and for incarcerated young people. He said that the magazine helped him find a voice, gave him his first real job when he was 17, and then provided him the confidence to get on his feet.

Finding Meaning in a Magazine's Pages

Chris, who asked that we not print his last name, said when he was 12, he became involved in drugs and gangs. At age 13, he lived in a group home in Washington State. At age 15, he had a two-month stint in juvenile hall, followed by another year-long lock up.

"I never made it past freshman year of high school. There are things I have done and seen that no one should have to see or do," he told me.

Enter The Beat Within. The magazine was started as a nonprofit venture in 1996 in San Francisco when a detention advocate named David Inocencio (who still serves as director) reached out to a media organization. David brought writing workshops to incarcerated youth in the Bay Area. The first magazine resulting from those workshops was six pages long, and mainly focused on young people's intense feelings on the recent death of Tupac Shakur.

  Now roughly 700 youth participate in adult-led workshops each week in facilities across several states.  The "Beat" workshops channel youth's written and drawn responses on various topics. Facilitators submit products from the workshops, and young editors and designers compile the magazine. Every two weeks, over 1200 copies—60 pages long, with story after story of hope and heartache—roll off the presses and back into the facilities where the works were created.

According to their website, The Beat's "mission and commitment is to provide incarcerated youth (and youth in general) with the opportunity to share their ideas and life experiences in a safe space that encourages literacy, self expression and healthy, supportive relationships with adults and their community."

From Inmate to Intern

Chris was initially skeptical about participating in The Beat workshops and did not consider himself a writer at the time. "I wasn't open to anything at that point, but five to six months in, I figured I might as well come out [of my cell] and give it a try."

He remembers that writing while incarcerated brought him to a place that was otherwise inaccessible to him on the street:

"All you're thinking about is your freedom and what's going on on the outside. When you're out, your freedom is not that important – because you have it. You've got a million different kinds of things going on in your head. The quality is a lot deeper than it would be for someone out of juvenile hall," he said.

He recalled that the workshops were run peacefully. "Nobody is fighting each other and it makes the day brighter."

When his first piece was published, Chris remembered how "cool" it was that other youth around the country were reading his work.  Little did he know that another milestone was right around the corner. Many of the people who put the magazine together are youth who've been invited to intern or work for The Beat.  Chris is one of those people.

"About two months before I got my release date, one of the facilitators offered me an internship at The Beat due to my situation. I was able to get released a little before that, except there was nobody to release me to. The judge ordered me to go to a homeless shelter when I was 17," Chris said.

He quickly completed an application with David for an internship.  After he left the shelter each morning, he'd arrive at the office and type up the pieces The Beat received from detained youth. He doesn't remember it being easy work. "You've got two-week turnarounds, and sometimes you're the only one writing and typing. It can be 8-10 hour days, and sometimes I'd take my work home with me because there was so much to do."

Despite the grind, Chris found meaning in the magazine he was helping to create. "In juvenile hall, you get told what to do, and when to do it. This gives you a chance to express yourself. We're taking the time to listen to them, to ask them what they feel." His responsibilities grew, and soon enough he was managing other interns, and coordinating the office and events under the program director. 

All the while, "I was still selling drugs." He didn't realize the contradictions in his life until he typed up adults' submissions for the magazine's section called "The Beat Without." "I was typing [these] pieces, listening to these grown men talking about the regrets in their life, basically begging these younger kids not to take the road they took, and that's what really hit home for me."

In a self-study that David provided me, there is a note about Chris. "One of the most perceptive things he ever told us – at a time when he could barely afford the BART ticket he needed to pursue job interviews and dead ends was: 'I got 40 dollars in my pocket to last the week. And all I gotta do is make one phone call, I could have $300 in my pocket in an hour.'"

The internship—combined with marriage and a child on the way—helped Chris find the focus he needed to leave the street behind. He also credits some support provided on-site from volunteers helping the young interns to develop college and career plans.

He continued his internship for one year, which helped him save for an eventual apartment and transform his honed leadership abilities into other opportunities, including the job he has held since finishing at The Beat.  

From Intern to Manager

Chris now works as a department manager at a large home improvement store.  "I am probably the youngest person in the building, telling 46 year-olds what to do. At first they looked at me. I have long hair, and I might look like a gangsta to some people. But I do know what I'm talking about. I go to meetings with other store managers and other districts. The Beat really helped me talk to adapt and talk to different people differently."

In many ways, Chris defies the stereotype of a young offender. "I think I've accomplished more than some 40-year-olds have."

In other ways, he sees his story as common: "They want to know why drugs and crime are so prominent…You think I wanted to sell drugs? Rob somebody? I didn't have no money. If I were able to get a job, then I wouldn't have been doing that stuff."

Chris emphatically believes that youth need more programs like The Beat Within. "Any program where kids can come in and get help, and get the training they need. There needs to be more programs that prepare you career wise or job wise. It would be huge." According to Chris, a good program is one staffed by people who "show you they care, that go the extra mile, that don't let age and being homeless hold you back."

When he has the time, Chris has taken his gratitude on the road with him, meeting young people around the state, advocating for youth programs, and traveling to Atlanta to speak at a youth media conference.

"Coming out of juvenile hall, living in a homeless shelter, I doubt I would have found a job within a year or two. I think that [The Beat Within] is the only reason I am making it right now."

One of Chris's earlier pieces that he wrote while incarcerated:

When I have a child, I pray they don't ever feel the pain I felt.
I hope the streets don't get the best of my child, boy or girl,
But you never know what can happen in this messed up world.
I seen my ninja killed right in front of my eyes.
Bullet killed him instantly, never got to say goodbye.
Gunshot victim won't be my demise
I don't try to act a certain way or put on a disguise.
I don't depend on anyone but myself.
Put too much trust in a ninja and you'll end up in cuffs.
A lot of ninjas be pillow talking afraid to stand up for what they say.
I stand by my word each and every day
I regret a lot of my actions
but what's through is through and what's done is done
I'd give anything to start life over and give it another run.
Tryin' to make it to see 21,
But that's a difficult task not everyone can get it done.

On with the topics, which are condensed... (17.03)

1. "Stealing" - This week we ask, have you ever stolen from a family member—your mom, dad, grandma/pa, brother or sister?

2. "One photo" - You're going on a journey for a long time, maybe through the criminal justice system, maybe a trip around the world. If you could only carry one photo while on this journey what would that photo show?

3. "Parents" - Parents have a great influence on our lives, whether they're in our lives or not. What is something you've always wanted from your parents but never got?

4. "I hate it when..."

17.04 topics, 1. "Luck" - Do you believe in luck? Today we ask you writers to think about what luck is. Do we create luck? If not, who or what does?

2. "Dressed Up"- Tell The Beat about a time when you got dressed up-- not just in everyday clothes, but you had to wear your best shoes, dress, slacks. 

3. "The hard conversation you had/need to have" - We know there is that one conversation we all need to have with a certain person or a group of people. Maybe you already had it?

This week we want you to give us a glimpse of what this conversation is all about, and what you hope will come out of the conversation.


4. "I'm most happy when..."

All right this issue goes out to the great Johnny Otis and Etta James, both artists passed away last week. Now, if you do not know who these two pioneers are, well, do some research!

Congratulations to Kirstin Dau and Tyler Lenane on your wedding!

Download Voulme 17.03/04


For two lectures during the quarter each class will have a guest lecture by one of the other collaborating professors. The goal is to widen the scope of each class and enhance the curriculum of each course by offering a variety of perspectives--photojournalism with Richard Ross, social science writing with Cissy Ross, and sociology research with Victor Rios.

In addition, several experts in the field will speak to the classes. See the line up HERE


Editor's Note

Welcome to the first issue of 2012. It is with great honor to given this platform to INga BUchbinder, who has played such an important role the last six months. We are thrilled about the new year and all the possibilities. With that said, we wish all you readers a wonderful new year, and here is The Beat's Program Director with the first editorial note of the New Year. Take it away Inga!

Once again it's a brand new year. A clean slate. A fresh start. I read someone's status on Facebook that essentially asked why people trip over the first of the year and say they will change all this stuff in their lives—it's really just another day. In some ways, I don't disagree. What really makes January 1 any different from December 31? Every day the date changes. It's always a brand new day, one you have never seen before and will never see again.

But on the other hand, January 1 is like another chance—and it comes every year! A whole year ahead of you to make different choices, take a new path. So what choices will you make this year that will make 2012 different from 2011? Many of you wrote about your New Year's Resolutions for this issue and many of those pieces talk about turning your lives around.

The resolutions I always hear about are losing weight, going to the gym more, eating healthy, making money, getting a better job, reading more books and traveling more. All of these things are important, but shouldn't we be conscious about these decisions every day and not just January 1 of every year? Shouldn't we always strive to live a healthy and fulfilling life—however that may be for you. I read a fun fact in a magazine that most people's resolutions don't even make it to February 1. People forget about them, get lazy, give up because it's too hard, etc. That's fair enough, change is hard. Even I'm not a fan of change.

So, I challenge all of you Beat readers and writers, even those of you who didn't write about your resolution, to really contemplate how you can make 2012 the best year for yourself, how you can strive to succeed and make the hard changes that will put you on the right track. Don't give up—that's the most important part. Don't get discouraged. Ask for help. Take small steps, believe in yourself. All of you have the ability to complete your resolutions of going back to school, getting your degrees, getting a job and supporting your families, changing your lifestyles, finding things that you are passionate about. So do it. When we inevitably get to January 1 2013, wouldn't it be nice to look back and see how far you've come, how much you did just because you had the ambition and drive in yourself to get it done? Trust me, you'll feel great.

With all that said, here are the topics for this first issue of 2012. Topics from 17.01:

"Saved- What does it mean to you to be saved? How do you define saved? Does it mean being saved from ferocious dogs? From being trapped in a burning house? Saved by the bell? Tell us of a time you were saved. Saved from what? How were you saved?  Is it true, for many, you have to sin to get saved? If that's true for you what sins have you committed, and how have you addressed the sin? What did you do to get saved?  If you feel you have been saved by your God, be specific and tell us how your  God came into your life. What did you do to help your God help YOU?  Who is ultimately responsible for your salvation (being saved)? Is it your higher power, your family, a teacher, a mentor, a counselor? Tell us about this person, spirit, or thing that has helped/saved you. What transpired?  With this said, breakdown what being saved means to you."

"It Won't Go Away - What is something you can't seem to be able to escape from? That is something you don't want around, but won't go away. Think about your habits, your lifestyle, a certain memory, and the people in your life. Now tell us of the thing(s) you would like to change in your life, and in detail give us your thoughts on what it is you wish you could escape from, but for some reason you can't."

"A True Leader - Is being a true leader a trait people are born with or a skill acquired through practice? We ask you, if true leaders are born or created? Many people think a leader is something you acquire and are molded for.  Have you ever witnessed someone who just naturally takes the reigns and heads a project? Or maybe it's an athlete who has the ability to inspire their team and the team follows them fearlessly? With that said, are you a leader? Give us the details. Now if you are not sure, then tell us (famous or not) who is a leader in your eyes, and what makes him/her such a leader."

Topics from 17.02: "The Pen versus The Sword- The old saying "the pen is mightier than the sword" that ink in a pen can be more powerful than the blade of knife or in today's terms, the bullet of the gun. Yet, many of you would disagree. You might feel that the bullet in the gun is mightier, that it can inflict great harm and fear, which the pen can't.  Does this saying still mean the same thing today? Can the pen (or writing) be more powerful than a gun/violence? Now from where you sit today, we know you have serious thoughts on the pen and the gun?"

"The Safe Place - When we get stressed or angry, sometimes we go for a walk, hide in our bed or pick up our guitar, because it's a place that feels safe. What or where is your "safe place"? Is it a real, physical place like your home, your bed, your favorite park, is it a place that you go in your mind when you need to escape, is it an activity that calms you down like playing an instrument or drawing? Why is it a safe place for you--what positive memories do you have about it?"

"Soul - Here's the dictionary definition of "soul": "the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal. A person's moral or emotional nature or sense of identity." How would you describe your soul? Does it have a color? Specific adjectives (happy, beautiful, ambitious) that describe it? Tell The Beat about your soul. My soul..."

And finally, "My New Year's resolution is...

In closing, we thank Inga for her kind words, we thank you writers and artists who contributed to The Beat Within's first issue of 2012! Mad props to you all! We can't express this enough, but we do wish you all a great year ahead, and we most definitely look forward to reading your entries and sharing them with the world.

This issue goes out to you teachers/you writers and artists who are open to learning and growing as you confidently express yourselves and share with our community, while dealing with the many obstacles, as you move forward with your lives. We could not be The Beat Within without your words and wisdom.

Download Voulme 17.01/02


Editor's Note

Can you believe this friends? What you have in your hands is our year-end-double-issue, 16.49/50. We are thrilled to give you readers our 50th issue of this year, completing our 16th season of writing and art from inside juvenile hall and beyond! Who would have thought that we would have hit this magical number, especially this year, when back in March, there was uncertainty in what direction The Beat Within would go. Who would have thought we would rebirth the program and continue the good fight in giving a voice to our many, many contributors, who otherwise would not have such a forum to share and teach their truths with one another.

There is plenty of praise and thanks to go around. We could not be this successful if it wasn't for you writers and artists who take The Beat Within program and publication seriously. From workshops participants, to those of you, who find the time to write and share your thoughts, and then send it out to us via US mail, with the goal of being published, thank you! We trust in ourselves that we will find a better method in 2012 to embrace all the letters and contributions we receive each day.

We want to thank every single Beat facilitator who is mentioned in our masthead on page 3, from those of you who work in our office here in San Francisco, to those of you who give your time in your respected communities to touch the lives of the young people who find themselves trapped within the walls of the criminal justice system.

We also want to thank all you wonderful friends and advisors, who have offered great insight and support this past year when we needed it most. We could not walk with such confidence without you all. The time that you have given to The Beat Within means the world to us, and for that we thank you for sharing a part of you, being our advocate(s), in helping us to improve this amazing program as it soon begins it's 17th season.

Our past, we do not forget. We thank all of you old writers, artists, facilitators, editors, typists, interns, funders, advocates and friends. You all have played such a vital role in the story of The Beat Within, and for that we thank you. We know The Beat for better or for worse is something you will never forget either, it is such a magical and important program, particularly the writing workshops, where we have this priceless opportunity to go inside juvenile hall and work closely with our young writers and artists.

Speaking of workshops, we are currently in 18 juvenile hall facilities, conducting well over 100 writing workshops a week! None of this would have happened if it weren't for you amazing facilitators. As the year comes to a close, we currently have close to 250 volunteers participating in our program, from the workshops to the typing and editing. Since we are days away from the New Year, we can't tell you how excited we are about 2012 - from reconnecting with you writers and artists, to building off the year end momentum that we have going into the new year, to fostering our new relationships, to seeing where this special program takes us next. We do look forward to more speaking engagements, sharing in our work with communities that do not know of us, to further raising our visibility around the country/world, to traveling around the country and reconnecting with our friends, to meeting new colleagues who have an interest in what we do.

Moving right along, we would like to present the following topics, from 16.49 and 16.50. These topics, were presented and discussed as a class with our participants prior to most of the writing featured in this issue. From 16.49… 1. "Risk" - This topic comes to us from one of our Beat Without writers, Josh in San Diego. Pilgrims boarded ships and immigrated to America. They took life threatening risks by enduring long journeys across the ocean. Little did they know about what was waiting at the other side... Describe a risk you took to better (or unfortunately worsen) you situation at  some point in your life. Were there any surprising outcomes? How did you feel afterwards? Was the outcome better or  worse?

2. "Favorite holiday dish" - We have entered into the holiday season that seems to begin earlier and earlier each year. What are some of the traditional holiday foods you used to share with your family? What is the dish that you looks most forward to eating during the holiday season? Who is responsible for this dish? Can you share the recipe? When do you usually have this dish? Tell us about your favorite holiday meals  

3. "Time" - When you are in juvenile hall, what does time feel like? Does it feel different if you are looking at getting  released in a couple weeks, a couple months or a couple of years? If you feel that it passes slowly, what do you do to pass the time? Do you love time, hate time, don't think about time? Tell The Beat about your relationship with time.

  4. "The bravest thing I have ever done was..." Here are the topics for issue 16.50… 1. "Angry"  - This week we want you to share with us, the time you made your parent(s) /guardian(s) the most angry you ever seen them.  Tell us what happened. Breakdwon the circumstances that brought this anger to your parent(s)/guardian(s). Did they ground you and take away privileges? Did they hit you? Tell us how and why they became so mad? What could you have done different? How did you feel upon seeing this anger on their face? How long did it take for them to forgive you?   

2. "A bad high" -  With this topic, we are not asking you to brag about a time you were incredibly loaded/high, but we are asking you to tell us of a time you had a horrible high/a bad trip. What happened?  Was it something that occurred during the time you were high/drunk? Was it because you went overboard with partying? How did you come down from this bad feeling? Was it life threatening?  Did this "bad high" later awake you to make better changes in your life? Was it a wake up call?

    3. "Thanked in 60 seconds" - You have just been given an award and you have to make a speech thanking the people who helped you get to this point in your life. You're standing in front of the microphone, you have sixty seconds, one minute thank someone who has had a big impact on your life, what do you say?

All right friends and colleagues, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! We look forward to seeing you all in 2012. If we miss you, don't hesitate to put your pencil to paper and write us, we'd love to hear from you.

This issue goes out to YOU, for taking this work seriously - from the lead facilitators and editors, to the college interns, to the volunteers, to our many-many young teachers/participants, to our old school writers, to those of you who are great fans of The Beat. We appreciate you from the bottom of our hearts for realizing how special of a vehicle this publication/program truly is - The Beat Within, giving voice to the voiceless, since 1996. We wish you all great success! See you in the new year.

Download Voulme 16.49/50


Editor's Note

Greetings Beat editorial note readers! This week we not only feature the stellar double issue (16.47/48) writings from our various workshops, and top notch BWO contributors from all over the USA, but we have new contributors, that will be introduced by our good friend and colleague Karen Hunt, who has so kindly agreed to write the editor's note. Without further ado...

It is my privilege, as a coordinator of The Beat Within in Los Angeles, to introduce the latest band of youth to join us: a group of students in Belfast, Northern Ireland, led by the most talented and energetic of artists, Clinton Kirkpatrick!

I would like to share with you, in a nutshell, the story of how this happened.

Ever since the first day that I walked into Central Juvenile Hall sixteen years ago with the dream of creating a writing program for incarcerated youth, part of that dream was to create a network of communication between our youth in Los Angeles and youth around the world. I grew up in Los Angeles and as a child I was blessed to be able to travel to more than fifty countries with my family. My father, Dave Hunt, is a writer and he wanted our family to gain knowledge and insight from this adventure. It was the tumultuous 1960's and I can tell you that an American family of six, traveling in a bright red VW van was a unique sight in many of the places we visited. Some of our adventures included escaping out of Egypt right before the 6 Day War, living in a 17th century Swiss castle and smuggling Bibles into communist countries. Attending a small village school made me feel like an alien from a distant planet. When I returned home I realized that these experiences had forever altered me as a human being. I now had a world view that most American children didn't have; an appreciation for the richness of diverse cultures and an understanding that, although people might appear very different on the surface, underneath, we are all the same in our hopes and fears, our desires to be loved and to be successful in life.

During the 1980's, I lived for eight years between London and a small village in Slovenia. During that time, I visited Belfast for a wedding and I well remember the wall that separated the two parts of the city, conscious that I had walked into the middle of a war zone. I loved all of Ireland. Yes, the countryside is beyond beautiful but more importantly, the people have an openness and generosity that defies the level of hardship they have endured.

For a few years now, it has been my desire to return to Ireland. I thought that if I was ever able to set up this exchange between our youth and youth abroad, I would like to start there. When I was offered a Fellowship at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in the Republic of Ireland, I knew I had my chance. In October, I went to TGC to work on my book, Letters from Purgatory. I cannot imagine a more magical place than TGC; a gabled mansion surrounded by delicate forests and rolling green hills and, best of all, looking down on a lake where birds dip and rise in an out of the mist.

After a full day of writing, in the evenings, the writers, artists, composers, dancers (whoever happens to be there at the time) congregate for dinner. And that is how I met Belfast artist Clinton Kirkpatrick! I was drawn to his brilliant talent, his spirit, his energetic enthusiasm for helping young people to express themselves as artists. Over a few pints at the local pub, he told me how he had worked on a project in Kenya and how now he was working with the youth at Impact Training. I told him about The Beat Within, showed him the website and told him about my hopes to expand the program.

From there, it was a small step towards agreeing that it would be wonderful to set up this exchange between the youth in our two groups. I was especially interested in how this exchange would unfold since Impact Training is located in the Shankill Road (meaning "old church") area of Belfast. This is the arterial road leading through a predominantly loyalist working class area of Belfast and it is steeped in a history of bloodshed from the sectarian conflict days. As with our youth, the youth in areas like this, and others around the world, find it difficult to break free of the hardships and challenges that they face in their neighborhoods; and I think you will find as you read the writing from Belfast, that although our youth live on opposite ends of the earth, the challenges they face aren't all that different. The wall that once divided Belfast has been turned into a "peace wall" covered in murals. Clinton worked on these murals with the youth and some of that artwork is featured in this issue and on the cover. I think of the very real walls that imprison our youth and I feel that hearing the stories of how such a wall of division in a far away land was turned into an object of beauty can be inspirational.

I remember my dad telling me the story of a man he had met who had been imprisoned and tortured. The man said, "When you are tortured they can do things to make you say whatever they want you to say. But do you know what they cannot do? They cannot change what you really think inside your head. They can't take away your freedom of thought."

My focus has always been on finding ways to break down walls and build bridges of understanding. We might not be able to physically destroy those walls, but we can through words and through art. This has the potential to last long after the walls have crumbled and decayed. And with technology, we can now create a world-wide network where our youth speak out on the issues that matter to them, share their stories and learn from one another, building those bridges of tolerance and understanding.

So, it is with great pleasure that I introduce our newest group from Impact Training, who recently started meeting with Clinton twice a week. At present, they are learning drawing and are starting with apples. I love this concept! In a world filled with so much chaos, the perfect simplicity of an apple brings us back to a place of stillness and clarity of thought.

As we go along, I look forward to introducing our youth to the youth at Shankill Road and to seeing their exchange of writing and art unfold. Not only will Impact Training youth be contributing to the The Beat's publication, but they will be involved in an exchange of writing and art between youth at Central Juvenile Hall, Los Angeles and at another new location, which we will feature in a later edition: Pacific Lodge Youth Services in Woodland Hills, where the boys will be working on writing and art.

I want to thank David and all the great people in the office, like Inga, for helping to make the first step of this vision a reality. Thank you Clinton for jumping on board! I also want to thank the Good Works Foundation, who helped in this endeavor with a grant. I love working with The Beat! What a powerful force for peace and unity. I can't wait to see who will join us next!

Thank you Karen, Clinton, and the young people from Impact Training, whose thoughtful writings are featured on page 4. We could not ask for a better way to end the 2011 year, with this amazing partnership. We at The Beat are thrilled about all the possibilities, and the bridge, thanks to the publication we have created for all of us associated with The Beat Within.

Moving right along, the following topics you will soon read were used in our workshops prior to the writing that is featured in this fabulous issue. Issue 16.47: 1. "End of the world" - Do you think that there will be an "end of the world?" For many years various songwriters, authors, movie directors, religious folk, fortune tellers, scientist, and even journalists have predicted that there would be a time the world will come to an end. Do you think that in our future the world will come to an end? What does it look like if it were to really happen? Share your thoughts. Now, If you are one who doesn't believe that world will come to an end, explain your argument as well.

2. "A Must" - What are the things that every human being has a right to have access to? Food, water, shelter, education, jobs? What are the things that YOU think are important to living? What are the things that all human beings should have access to, to live healthy long lives.

3. "Stress" - The definition of stress is "the physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another; strain." What are some of the things about being in the hall that put stress on you or on the people you love? What was stressful about NOT being in the hall, living on the outs? This week we want you to define your stress and possibly what it is that is stressing you out.

Lastly, 4. "When I was very young I wanted to be (fill in the blank) when I grew up…"

Issue 16.48: 1. "Winner" - Tell The Beat about a time when you were the winner. Maybe you won a game of scrabble, or your team won a basketball game. What did you win? How did it feel to win? Who did you share your excitement with? How did you celebrate? Give us the details of a time you (and possibly your team) came out the winner. Was it hard work to get to be the winner? Tell us about the effort or practice you put in to becoming the winner.

2. "Changing" - The Beat and Beat writers are always talking about change and why someone should change. Maybe it's for probation, for your family or your children or for your future. This week The Beat wants to know HOW does someone change, knowing very well it is hard to make a change, when we are so use to living one way.  Or, if you refuse to change, tell us why you are against changing.

  3. "Taking a look at myself" - A couple weeks ago The Beat asked you about the labels you carry with you--how you think you are judged. But what would you do differently if nobody judged you? If you could be whoever you wanted to be, without any judgment, who would you be, and why? Would you stay the same? Change yourself totally and be another person? What qualities would you keep and which would you throw away? However you answer this topic, would your loved ones be proud of you, or disappointed, and why?

4. "The hardest thing I've ever done was…."

All right, this issue goes out to Karen, Clinton, and the young people at Impact Training in Belfast Ireland.

Download Voulme 16.47/48


Thanks to John Fleming and our friends at the JJIE, which is a part of the Center for Sustainable Journalism, on the campus of Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, informed us of this powerful photo exhibit, "Juvenile-In-Justice," which is currently featured on their website. The photos, by photographer Richard Ross, are of juvenile detention facilities and the young people within the juvenile justice system throughout the USA. The photos speak volumes.

The whole exhibit.

The exhibit also features the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center.

We encourage you to take a look at the great work of Richard Ross.


Editor's Note

Given the excitement around The Beat Within being honored by the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists), Northern California Chapter tonight, at an awards dinner in downtown San Francisco, we feel it is our obligation to fill you a bit more about the award, and of course give some thanks where the thanks are due!

On Tuesday, The Beat Within was honored with one of the SPJ's highest honors, "The Silver Heart" award, for giving voice to the voiceless. You could not ask for a more appropriate award.

Over the last 16 years, The Beat Within staff has dedicated itself to touching the lives of young people (and you devoted elders aka BWO writers) who find your selves within the criminal justice system. Early this year, we at The Beat were not even sure how we could keep our flame going, given there was an immediate need to downsize the program. It was quite a challenging time to say the least, and to have to say farewell to a number of amazingly committed individuals who for years played significant roles in the program.

With the support of The Beat Community, a number of funding partners, and an amazing volunteer core, we were able to keep the fire going, and during that time we truly re-birthed the program, and during the changes going on we surprisingly kept the workshops and publication going strong, though we made the decision to no longer be the weekly publication many of you have come to know us as, and now to come out twice a month, with double issues!

In June we brought on our Program Director Inga Buchbinder who took over one of the biggest responsibilities in The Beat, keeping track of volunteer facilitators, (as we also built a new and solid volunteer trainer) and making sure our programs are running smoothly in the various institutions we enter each week.

Tonight's award is truly a highlight for the program and our history. Not looking for anyone to feel sorry for us, but we must admit at times we felt under appreciated (and off the radar), though we kept our cool, stayed focused on our mission, and up to this point have stayed true to our cause. Of course it is our goal to keep this program going for years and years to come, as long as there are young (and old) people who find themselves inside the criminal justice system.

We want to thank Manen, for his consistently great work on layout of The Beat publication, and in creating our brand new website Props once again to Inga, our amazing Program Director. A big-big shout out to Mario for his work and support, with translating Beat topics into Spanish each week, and taking care of our mailing, and being in charge of printing, folding and preparing our publication for you readers. There is a host of facilitators, typists and editors that need major props too, and there is no way we can list every single one of you in this note, but we want you to know that YOU ALL are so vital to our success, thank you, from the heart!

Lastly, props to John over at the Whitman Institute for his mentoring, Ben Wong's consulting and coaching, Brittany Jarabek for her super Beat proposals and LOI's, Nancy DeMartini for her special friendship and huge support over the years, Sherman Scholten for coming through when we needed support to fix our in-house printers, the Nelson Fund for their capacity building grant this year to help us understand what it takes to run your own non-profit, Sandy Close for her support of the vision in it's infancy and continuing to believe in the work, and finally to Maria Alvarez for believing in The Beat, and being way more than just the CFO of our parent agency.

Last, but not least, a B-I-G thank you to you writers and artists that believe in The Beat, and believe in yourselves as writers and artists. Your courage speaks volumes. With that said, enjoy, even if it's for a moment, what is happening to The Beat Within tonight. Your voice speaks volumes to us and is priceless!

Now on to the topics. From week 16.45: "Inspired -When was the last time you were inspired? Who inspires you - friends, family, celebrities, etc? Did they inspire you to go down the right path? The wrong path? As human beings we all look to be inspired by something, a person, a book, a song.... So tell The Beat what in your life has inspired you."

"Family Tree - You all take such great pride in your families, but we want to know where does your family come from? What do you know about where your mother and father grew up, or your grandmother and far back as you can go. Tell us about what you know about your families journeys, where and how they immigrated, what was life like before they came to the States, or what was life like in the US when your parents or grandparents were growing up? Do any of your know anything about your great-great grandparents, uncles or aunts?"

"Celebrities- Have you ever met anyone famous? If so, who was it and where were you? Tell us in detail about the encounter with this famous person. If you haven't, do you know someone who has? What did they tell you about it?"

And from week 16.46: "Strength - Sure, we can all lift some weights and gain physical strength, but what things in your life give you emotional strength, the strength to carry on through a rough day at home, in the hall, at court, or preparing for the future? Are there people that bring strength to you? Is there a motto or mantra that you derive strength from? Share with The Beat the things in your life that give you the endurance to go on day after day."

"Family Visit- Family plays such a key role in all of our lives, so tell The Beat about the last visit you had with family members. What was that visit like, happy, sad? Do you look forward to them? Has there ever been a visit you haven't looked forward to? Why? How often does family come to visit? Do you prefer to not have visits? Have you ever turned one down? Why? Who visits you? Who doesn't visit you? Who do you wish visited you? Why do they not visit you?"

"Your Higher Power - If you could ask your Higher Power one question, what would it be and what answer would you hope to get?"

"The Thanksgiving Question - There are always things to be thankful for, but who are the people in your life, past or present, alive or dead, that you are thankful for? List three people you are grateful to and tell The Beat why you are so grateful to them. Details, details, details!"

And finally... "If The Beat Within could bring any athlete and musician into the hall, who would you most like to see?"

Download Voulme 16.45/46


Editor's Note

Welcome to our TRIPLE issue of The Beat Within. As we are approaching the end of the year we needed to make sure all of your writing got into the last few issues we have left before the holi-daze takes us into the New Year. But before we get into all of the youth writing, we have Lisa Santoya as our editorial note writer this week. Lisa is a facilitator at our workshops in Bernalillo County, New Mexico where she also works as a Youth Program Transport Officer in the juvenile hall. Take it away, Lisa!

I was raised by a pair of strict and old-fashioned parents who enforced stern rules with plenty of guidance. My mother was a no-nonsense type of woman and my father was unassuming and gentle in his ways. My sisters and I were raised in a humble home with a solid approach of correct behavior. I was expected to maintain high grades (no lower than a B), demonstrate good manners, and provide respect to all adults.

During adolescence, I did what most teenagers do: I drank alcohol, I snuck out of the house, I ditched school, and I tried pot. This is not to say I didn't respect what my parents instilled in me – I feared my parents! As a result, I did everything in my power to avoid disappointing them and getting caught. Therefore, I've never been in detention. I was also expected to obtain a job so as to acquire "responsibility and the value of money". Subsequently, I was employed at fifteen and haven't stopped working since.

Our generation and times were very different to the current trend. I graduated with the class of 96' with over 400 students, and that was just one high school out of many in El Paso, Texas. Nowadays, the graduation rate is at its low and GED's are at its high. We had writing groups that only demonstrated how to write poetry, instilled grammatically correct essays, and approached literature with detailed explanations. If "The Beat Within" was at my school, it would've helped some friends vent about their situations at home and make them feel accepted and not alone. I was aware of many of them having issues...

I have major difficulties understanding today's generation. I work as a Youth Program Transport Officer at the detention center in Bernalillo County in Albuquerque and I am amazed at how parents are raising their kids. There is little to no discipline, minimal support, not much concentration on education, and too much disregard for the law. I take these kids in and out of court and I witness the total lack of accountability of these parents. Most of these parents have severe problems of their own – a broad spectrum of drug users/abusers, prostitution, alcoholism, homelessness, absence due to being incarcerated, physical or sexual abuse, and neglect where they don't have custody. Usually the parents are young (30's) and don't hold their kids responsible for their actions, but then again, they're not role models either.

There are also the other types of parents: the enabling ones. These parents don't enforce any rules; no use of direction or supervision, allowing their kids to do whatever they want, leading to breaking of the law. These parents have become lazy and careless about what their kids do and don't do. They don't emphasize that there's a consequence with every action and they don't convey the importance of education. Instead, they sympathize with their kids and act as if the law were the "bad guys". Nonetheless, there are kids who are burdened with real problems that stem from their parents' actions. These are the ones that need assistance and an outlet.

I've seen the residents express their burdens through "The Beat Within" and it always seems to help relieve their tension and doubts. Many times they're suicidal or have been sexually abused and they're able to release deep feelings about their experiences on paper. I've seen residents open-up when they've never opened up to any of the social workers or counselors. Clearly, this program is very therapeutic. I've also seen residents incorporate better coping skills and behave in a more positive manner. They don't seem so angry or hostile. It seems that they're hopeful and willing to go forward, regardless of their troublesome pasts.

In addition, they encounter other residents who go through similar or worse tribulations and this, in effect, raises their morale and their means to survive. They don't have the feelings of emptiness and they help build each other's strength. It's amazing what they generate from each other—they assemble a power source of endurance. These kids witness their parents injecting heroin into their veins, or watch their mother not defend them when they're getting raped, or they live life without knowing who their father is because he's skipped out on the family, or see their mother prostituting herself on the streets, or have to bear their father getting on top of them. What's happened to this generation?! I just don't get it...

Thank goodness "The Beat Within" is actively conducting their program! This program essentially takes a load off the therapists and case managers because sometimes residents don't open up to them and it's not easy to get them to talk about their unfortunate mishaps. They feel vulnerable and exposed as it is, so using the writing method is wise. I've also heard remarks made by parents that their "child is different in a good way" and they don't understand what happened. I know for a fact this program has reached out to an array of residents and has been beneficial to their actual behavior when they leave detention. So major kudos to the staff of "The Beat Within" and everything they do to compose such an exceptional program! Because without you, who knows where these kids would attain their coping skills.

In this issue, you will see writing that relates to one (or more) of the following topics:

"When Have You Felt It Was Okay To Cry?--. What we want to know is when have you felt completely comfortable to express what you were feeling with tears — either tears of joy or tears of pain? Describe what it was the made you feel so strongly. What was is that moved you? Who was around you? How did they react? Were you by yourself? Did crying make you feel better about the situation? Worse? What or who made you feel comfortable about shedding tears?"

"Stereotypes- Is it fair to judge a person based on stereotypes? Have you ever been stereotyped? Have you ever played up to the standardized image of what others think of you, or tried to play down these preconceived stereotypes of who you're "supposed" to be? Have you ever stereotyped someone and found out they were not what you thought?"

"Why Is Life Worth Living?-- Considering all the trials and tribulations that you've endured up until this point in life, is there anything or anyone that inspires you to move on, regardless of the harsh realities that one must live through and learn from? So the question today is this, what is the value of your life and dreams that makes striving another day worth it all in the long run?  Is it your loved ones? A role model? Is it proving the system and those who doubt you wrong? Is it freedom? School? What? Tell us in your own words why life is worth living for."

"Age - There are a lot of things that revolve around how old you have to be or can't be. But how old do you feel today? Maybe you feel older than your age, maybe you feel younger. What are the things that make you (or a person in general) feel older than they are? Do you feel those things? Tell The Beat how old you're feeling today and what is making you feel that way."

"Excluded - Do you remember a time when you felt excluded and left out, either by a group of people you thought were friends, your family or someone close to you. What was the situation and why did you feel left out? Have you ever purposely excluded someone else?"

"Walls - There are always times where we put up walls between us and people or situations that we don't want to deal with, but if you could literally put up a brick wall and cut someone/a group/a community off, who would you separate from and why? What would be the benefits of your wall? How would your life change for the better or the worse?"

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power...." - Jimi Hendrix What are your thoughts on this quote? What does it mean to you?"

"The Field Trip – When you look back at your school/summer experiences what was your most memorable field trip that you took with the group? Where did you go? Who did you go with? What made it so memorable? Had you been there before? Was it fun, special, boring? Did you get in trouble? If you were a teacher or group leader, where would you take the group on a field trip and why?"

"Labels - How are you labeled? What big assumptions do people make about you? Do you have different labels for different places, society, friends, family, school, the hall? Tell The Beat how you feel you are labeled, how does that make you feel or tell us how you wish you were labeled."

"Lies, lies, lies - When is it okay to tell a lie? Tell us a story about when you lied and why you thought it was okay. Who or what were you protecting?"

"The Hurdle - What will be your number one obstacle after leaving juvenile hall/the institution you are in?"

In an effort to be brief, this issue is dedicated to our brand new writers from Tuscumbia, Alabama. We are glad to have your voices represented in The Beat.

Download Voulme 16.42/43/44


Thanks to our mutual friend, photographer Joe Rodriguez, I had the privilege to meet up with and be interviewed by Peter Brook, as part of his 12-week journalism road-trip through America.

A bit about the project: Peter is working on an ongoing research/blog Prison Photography on the road. From October 1st until December 15th, he is currently driving a loop across the U.S. to conduct research. His goal was not only to interview photographers but people working in prison art, prison education and prisoner rights advocacy. In the end, from his research and interviews, Peter will also be giving lectures at colleges and hope to present the same material in prisons too ... if he can secure access. All content will be free and available to the photo and prison reform communities via Creative Commons licensing.

With that said, in late September of this year, Peter conducted a 15 minute audio interview for web-publication with myself, where I had the chance to discuss The Beat Within, the work and vocational trajectory to bring me to this type of work. I also had the chance to share the needs of youth and incarcerated youth, the role of the arts in giving youth a voice and the tangible benefits of these outlets. I hope you like what you hear.

FYI, Prison Photography is a unique platform. Over the past two and a half years, I have built a considerable readership. I was recently awarded a 'Best Photoblog Award 2011' by LIFE, and recommended as one of the 10 best photoblogs in the British Journal of Photography. I have 1,000 visits per day to my website and I expect that to increase significantly during the interactive road-trip. The crux of the research is to engage new audiences in thinking about prison reform through the strength and diversity of images ... and countering the negative stereotypes of mainstream media.

Listen to the interview with David Inocencio/The Beat Within

Peter Brook's whole Prison Photography blog


"Voices Behind Walls is a creative writing workshop that has taken place in juvenile detention centers in El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico. The workshop consists of writing poetry and the study of literary authors/poets/artist, chess, music (specifically Hip Hop, Soul, Jazz and other genres), beat production, radio broadcasting, film and vocal/audio recording."