‘Why?’ That’s the question being asked in communities across the United States right now. ‘Why is there so much civil unrest?’ ‘Why do the police appear to be targeting people of color?’ ‘Why are so many black children caught up in gangs and violence?’ ‘Why?’
The answers are unclear, muddied and complicated. But for many, the search for the answer must somehow wait while solutions are found. But how do you solve a puzzle you can’t answer? With hope, grit, determination and enthusiasm. And that’s what Roses in Concrete Community School in Oakland are all about.
The school is inspired by the writings and teachings of Tupac Shakur and aided and are assisted by Tupac’s mom. The school’s even named after a line from one of the great rapper’s poems, “The Rose That Grew From Concrete”. The piece was eventually adapted into a brilliant book of poetry published after the rapper’s death.
“You wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from concrete has damaged petals. On the contrary, we would celebrate its tenacity.”
His poems form part of the daily routine of the school and really do appear to be helping. As does meditation.
But why Oakland? Well, the city is in the top five for homicides and so many children have lost a family member or witnessed a murder, that something just had to be done. The statistics are just disgusting. Take a look:
So how can Tupac’s work help? Jeff Duncan-Andrade, an educator of many years and co-founder of Roses, says this of his back catalog:
“Pac’s work is about seeing the full humanity of someone who endures suffering and trauma on a regular basis, and I think that’s what the most successful adults working in our communities do. They acknowledge the hurt and the unearned suffering while at the same time acknowledging the tenacity and the will to reach the sun.”
Let’s hope it does some good.