There is an old saying that it is the weight of a single snowflake that causes an avalanche. Of course, we know that the destructive power of the avalanche is really in the millions of other snowflakes that make up the avalanche. As we near the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, and the events that followed, it is hard not to think of Ferguson as the single snowflake that started an avalanche of national attention regarding police use of force, and the disproportionate way that force is used against young black men. As Richard Pena wrote in the New York Times “Since a white police officer, Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in a confrontation last August in Ferguson, Mo., there have been many other cases in which the police have shot and killed suspects, some of them unarmed. Mr. Brown’s death set off protests throughout the country, pushing law enforcement into the spotlight and sparking a public debate on police tactics.”
This avalanche of public debate highlighted something we should have already known, that there is a disproportionate number of black lives being snuffed out by police actions. For years, sociologists’ have studied this use of force by police agencies. Mother Jones magazine reported on this trend last August. Jaeah Lee writes about this trend and reports “In 2007, ColorLines and the Chicago Reporter investigated fatal police shootings in 10 major cities, and found that there were a disproportionately high number of African Americans among police shooting victims in every one, particularly in New York, San Diego, and Las Vegas. ‘We need not look for individual racists to say that we have a culture of policing that is really rubbing salt into longstanding racial wounds,’ NAACP president Cornell Williams Brooks told Mother Jones. It’s a culture in which people suspected of minor crimes are met with ‘overwhelmingly major, often lethal, use of force,’ he says.
While there is now much more national attention to the actions of police, calls for changes to the tactics used by police departments, and a call for body cams to be worn by every police officer, we still hear of story after story of police force used that seems completely overwhelming to the situation. In August of 2014, USA Today reported that local police officers are involved in at least 400 shootings per month. Outside of that number, there is no to little data that is tracked about the aftermath of these use of force incidents, and still a feeling that police officers can act with impunity, use excessive force, and not face any charges.
It’s been a year now, and the fact that drastic and sustained change is needed throughout police forces across the US, we want to remember the snowflake that started the avalanche of national attention to a dire circumstance …the way our police interact with the general public in general, and how they interact with young black men in particular.
Writing for the Soul Workshop ™ is now collecting original short stories, poetry and illustrations for our #WriteForFerguson Project. These stories will highlight how these police interactions shape our thoughts and behaviors in a space where the people that are charged to protect and serve turn out to be our biggest danger, and help highlight the millions of other snowflakes we don’t know about.
When youth engage in our Writing for the Soul Workshop™ program, they experience the healing power of writing for themselves. Exposure to our program is enough to start the healing process, and equip participants with tools and resources that can help them in many different ways.
In addition to the healing power of writing, those who participate in Writing for the Soul Workshop™ also receive additional benefits, like the opportunity for their work to be submitted for group publishing. The opportunity to become a published author is exciting for our participants. Anyone who has been published can tell you the positive impact to self esteem that happens when your work has been printed, and when you can tell prospective schools or employers that you are a published author, it is a game changer for anyone, no matter what they have endured in their “human situation.”
When we experience trauma today, one of our go to methods for coping are mental health professionals. The benefits of counseling after a tragedy are important, but unfortunately, access to those benefits can be tough. A report from the National Center for Children in Poverty showed that 75 to 80 percent of children and youth in need of mental health services do not receive them. Gaps in medical coverage and higher costs for caregivers mean that even where professionals are available, there are still barriers to getting services.
Writing for the Soul Workshop™offers youth that have already been identified as at-risk, an opportunity to work with caring licensed counselors, facilitators, and mentors to improve their ability to develop a positive attitude towards their future through writing and sharing. What’s your story? We all have one. Let us help you tell yours. Submit your short story, poem, music, and art to be included in our #WriteForFerguson Project for inclusion in the release of: Pieces of Me from Ferguson. Simply, complete the Contact Form below or send your submissions to us via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please do not submit manuscripts that contain any of the following: obscene or explicit material, unnecessary profanity, vulgarity, or inappropriate or graphic love scenes. Any material considered for publication that is found to be graphic will require a mandatory edit of the material and may result in a rejection of the material.
Please note that we do not publish graphic material. Therefore, you may be asked to remove graphic material or language.
If you choose to submit by postal mail or electronically, those manuscripts will not be returned and will be deleted or destroyed if not accepted for publication. Please retain at least one copy of your manuscript when submitting a hard copy or electronic version for our consideration and review.