Monday, August 31, 2009 at 7:57AM The Blogmother
C.B. Hanif for WAOD:
The contrast was a stunning.
Onstage Sunday was a diverse set of young people, students and their mentors, displaying outstanding talent during their "Youth in the Arts" program.
Yet on the minds and tongues of many in the audience were Friday's gang-rape and assault convictions of two then-teenagers for their shocking actions two years ago at nearby Dunbar Village.
The youths onstage stood out for the skills they had developed in theatre and dance, the visual, instrumental and vocal arts, and for the lives of future hope and fulfilment they represented.
The youths who were led from the courtroom Friday, after their multi-count guilty verdicts were read, stood out for the depravity of their sexual assault on a mother and her son, and the possible rest of their lives in prison that they, and an accomplice who pleaded guilty, face when a judge sentences them October 13.
The youths onstage were beneficiaries of support from the parents and teachers who nurtured them, the appreciative audience of community members present to encourage them, and community institutions such as the West Palm Beach Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which organized and hosted the event, and Palm Beach Community College, on whose north campus the "Salute to the Harlem Renaissance" was held.
In contrast is the troubled family circumstances of the convicted youths, the prison inmate families awaiting them, the general societal lack of investment in the possibilities of others like them, and the question whether, had they been gifted with different growing and learning environments, life would have been different for them.
In random conversations through the evening, a guest was overheard saying it long had been clear that one of the convicted youths, unresponsive to school officials' efforts to help him, had been headed for trouble.
Another guest said to another who said to another that the sexual torment by as many as 10 African-American youths on the Haitian mother and her son, on that sad night at Dunbar Village, unquestionably was a hate crime; Haitians having been considered the lowest of the low when she was growing up here.
In contrast was a another who grew up here: actor, director and business owner Karen Stephens, whose gifted theater students were onstage in the Hurston segment she had produced.
She has shared her thoughtful perpectives in a video interview for WAOD whose third installments continue here:
Director's, residents' responsibilities
Community on trial?
Demolish Dunbar Village?