217 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol.36:3 2016]
I have addressed only a few of the problems facing youth in impoverished communities, failing
to discuss the effects of joblessness, failing public schools, gang influence, police misconduct, the
availability of guns, the media, and other related issues. This Article suggests that the only way to
inspire lasting change in the lives of this country’s youth is to change the communities where they
live. Of course, the judicial system is incapable of producing this kind of result, and some may
even argue that “changing a community” is too abstract a goal anyway. But what has happened in
Lawndale is a compelling argument that change is possible at the community level through the
efforts of faith-based organizations. And when this happens, the youth are inevitably impacted.
Instead of building bigger prisons, state and federal governments should look closely at North
Lawndale—an impoverished community that is being transformed by a church committed to
loving and rehabilitating juvenile offenders—and consider how to come alongside and encourage
other communities to develop similar initiatives.
Let me conclude with a few lines from Ms. Parks’ poem:
And I’m convinced that society makes more beds in prison cells than in dorm rooms
for little Tyrone’s and Malik’s. This is why my heart bleeds . . . I’m wishing we
had less handcuffs and more degrees. But I found out, it just takes one voice to
speak out, one truth. That’s why God only created one of me to speak to all of you
about what it takes to overcome in the midst of an economic and spiritual recession.
. . . From slave ships to Jim Crow, Watts Riots to Rodney King blows, Skid Row,
cultures underneath Wacker Drive in da Chi—oh yes, we’ve seen our fair share of
hard times. . . .125
Through the love and creativity of the people of Lawndale Community Church, North
Lawndale’s youth have the opportunity to overcome these hard times.
125 Romona Parks, Mentor & Coach at Lawndale Christian Legal Center, Hard Times, Spoken Word Performance
given at Lawndale Christian Legal Center’s First Annual Benefit (Nov. 9, 2012) (transcript on file with author).