this past friday - 3.3.06 - we returned to rikers island for a reading in celebration of the second volume of oral histories being published. of the nine young men whose stories are featured in the book, three were at the reading and read selections from their chapters along with one of us - 5 educators, teachers, and graduate students from tc. the reading took place at the chapel inside the jail, down the hall from the high school site where the stories were crafted. the event was documented by a reporter from wnyc, a local npr station, and we were told that the story would be aired some time this weekend, although i haven't heard it yet. i'll post a link when i find it.

what was most salient for me about the event was the interactions between the teachers at the high school and the three young men who stood up at the makeshift podium and performed their stories. there were moments of hesitation that were quickly met with shouts of encouragement from the audience - "take your time, brother!" as biggz read his piece, his teacher looked on, not quite with an ordinary brand of pride but with an expression that indicated that his heart was full at that particular moment. this expression remained as jermaine c. and phat boi read their selections and shared the stage with me and kerry, respectively. (all names are the pseudonyms selected by the authors and how they are credited in the book)

following the reading was a reception in one of the classrooms, and as plates of food were prepared and passed around by the school staff, two of the authors sat at one of the round tables signing books at the request of their teachers and others, their heads held high, and smiles on their faces. this was a good moment. a explicit recognition of the hybrid identities and discourses we all inhabit. a glimpse at the possibility for second chances and new beginnings.

from the back cover:
“It’s amazing what we can learn about the experiences and challenges
confronting incarcerated youth by listening to their voices. Those who seek to
help young people avoid a life of frustrated dreams and unfulfilled potential
will find wisdom in these words.”
—Pedro Noguera
New York University, Steinhardt School of Education