‘Kids Who Know Everything’: Baltimore Youth Hit the Airwaves
Baltimore educator Valencia Clay has created a new educational TV show called ‘Kids Who Know Everything,’ which gives Baltimore youth a chance to voice their opinions on issues related to race, crime, and poverty
EDDIE CONWAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Eddie Conway, coming to you from Baltimore. Parents often tell their kids not to speak when someone is talking to you. Too often children’s voices are silences and dismissed by adults, society at large, and teachers in particular. Which is why educator Valencia Clay, and author D. Watkins created a new show called “Kids Who Know Everything.” The show gives youth a chance to voice their opinion on serious issues related to race, crime and poverty. The pilot episode was filmed at Red Emma’s Book Store. The following are some of the highlights in which the children demystify corporate media’s over representation of black people and the inner city as society’s number one problem. The children not only challenge the idea of black-on-black crime, but they also look at the widespread neglect of government to adequately address any of the problems facing their community.
VALENCIA CLAY: What’s really important about tonight, is that it’s not about Miss Clay. It’s not about the infamous author Mr. D. Watkins. What this is about is taking Baltimore’s city kids on the road so that the world, that the nation, that everyone can hear our kids’ voices. Tonight’s topic is Don’t Save Us. When we were curating this show, D. Watkins and I were trying to figure out what would be the best thing to start out with, and so we were thinking “Well what do we need?” And we just kept coming back to “Do we really need something?” Which is what brought us to Don’t Save Us and so you’ll see how that plays out tonight.
SPEAKER: I feel numb, constantly surrounded by death. But I’m so used to it, it doesn’t have an effect. I was stressed, but now I can really care less. Cause I know that all of my people are seen as a threat, it’s a mess. And honestly got me scared for my life. I know if I try to fight, they kill me on sight. It ain’t right. Cause every night I gotta pray to Christ, that one day this dark, this will turn into light. Until that day come, pick up the pen and I write. I just hope that Batman comes to save our dark nights. Feel like I never win cause of the skin that I’m in. The chances are slim for me and all of my kin. These cops got no hearts like they bodies made of tin. Children’s lives are destroyed before they ever begin. Man, these cops like Denzel when he on Training Day, cause they run this and we just here to stay. And King Kong don’t got nothin’ on the monsters I see. Cause even when we plead and drop down to our knees, they look us in the eyes and pull the trigger with ease.
When I hear the phrase ‘inherently violent’ the word that always comes first in my mind has to be a cycle because I believe that people aren’t born violent. People aren’t born with violent tendencies. It’s something that is learned from either their parents or relatives, someone in their ancestry, or just the community that they’re placed in as a child. And, I say it’s a cycle because a lot of people who are violent now, or have these violent tendencies from an early age were raised by people that were like raised by this violent, or were violent themselves. And it was just kind of passed on.
VALENCIA CLAY: So, panel or Scott, would you say that the majority of people of color are inherently violent?
ZAHARA VALENTIN: I say no, because all of us aren’t violent. If you take a chance to, just because of our color and how we are and us blacks, we do bad things. That don’t mean we are violent. Some of us are, not violent. And some of us take the time to do things that help others. And before we can do that, they think, “Oh, they’re Black, they’re violent.”
VALENCIA CLAY: So, so why would you say there is so much violence in our community?
ANIJAH: The media is making people believe that only one race is acting a certain way. So since that one race is gonna start believing it, they’re gonna do the same thing because they’re used to it.
VALENCIA CLAY: Mm.
SPEAKER: This isn’t as bad as a city as the media makes it out to be, as the news makes it out to be. When we put on CNN, when we quote, unquote rioting, even though they don’t show what’s been done to us prior to the riots. They only show the climax or what happened after we couldn’t take anymore. So it was just, there’s nothing wrong with staying in the city. There’s nothing wrong with trying to raise a family here. There’s just somethin’ wrong with having to fear for the lives of your loved ones consistently. And the place that you considered to be home.
VALENCIA CLAY: I love it. I like those snaps. Can we, can we snap that?
SPEAKER: And there’s certain points in some parts of Baltimore that we can make better. So, instead of trying to escape it, how about we improve our city. Instead of trying to let others demean it.
VALENCIA CLAY: Mm. Let’s switch the topic a little bit. I wanna know how would we define poverty in Baltimore. What is the current state of poverty? How does it look?
SPEAKER: And like people that’s livin’ in like shelters and everything that needed money, but they couldn’t get it because they either got fired from their job or didn’t have a job in the first place.
ZAHARA VALENTIN: Poverty isn’t just homeless. You could have a home, but you could just be struggling to keep it. You could be struggling to keep your kids clothed, keep your kids fed. It’s very different versions of poverty and homeless isn’t just the only one.
VALENCIA CLAY: Mm.
ANIJAH: You can have a home and you still can be struggling so I think poverty to me looks like unemployment.
VALENCIA CLAY: Does poverty link to crime. Like is that why we have such a high crime rate? Who can tell me currently, what is the death rate, in just the last week, how many people may, Who can tell me?
ZAHARA VALENTIN: It has been 11 homicides in one week.
VALENCIA CLAY: And what about in the last 30 days?
SPEAKER: The last 30 days there’s been 30. Yeah, 30 homicides.
VALENCIA CLAY: 33 homicides in the last 30 days. Who can tell me in the last 90 days how many homicides we’ve had in our city?
VALENCIA CLAY: 94. And what about today? In the last nine months, cause this is September, almost October. Anijah?
ANIJAH: Um, 264?
VALENCIA CLAY: Mm-hmm.
SPEAKER: It’s not just people steal when they’re in the middle of poverty. It’s just that like, for an example it can be just sellin’ drugs. Sellin’ drugs is a major issue in like Baltimore, so a lot of people do that because they are in poverty, and they’re suffering from red-lining. And, they just wanna make it out for their families.
VALENCIA CLAY: You brought up red-lining. My question is does, cause in the video she said red-lining lasted for 30 years and it ended in 1968, right? Did it really end?
SPEAKER: No. No, it did not.
VALENCIA CLAY: Expand on that. How do you know that it didn’t end?
SPEAKER: Cause, like, as you can see, like, there’s still a lot of abandoned households and a lot of African-Americans in those households. And they’re just pushing us in there, so, cause the government is just messed up. Like …
ANIJAH: Um, actually on my way here, I noticed that as I walked, there were a lot of abandoned houses. As soon as I turned the corner it seemed like the houses started to get bigger and the houses started to look richer. More statues were out. People had bigger cars, better cars, and I just was like, “Is it really over? Do they really want us to be separated because of the color of our skin? Or how much money we have?”
VALENCIA CLAY: So, I want us to think about mindset because in my class I don’t teach and they can tell you this. I give them the information. I facilitate. They do all of the heavy lifting. The only time I speak is when I have to debunk a misconception. So, this week we were thinking a lot about mindset and one of the students said, “We can stop crime if we start to make sure that we end black-on-black crime.” Which is how this all came to light, right? And so it made me change my entire lesson to make them think about language of the oppressor. I want them to now explain to you, and whoever wants to jump on this can. Why is it that only people of color, when they do crimes, it’s black-on-black crime. But any other race quote-on-quote race, cause we know there’s only one race. But, any other race doesn’t have a white on white crime or any other type of type crime. Why is it only that people of color are labeled with ‘black-on-black crime?’
ZAHARA VALENTIN: The government wants people to think that black people have the most crime when they really don’t. White people kills they own race also. Not just black people.
VALENCIA CLAY: So why, or how do they make you believe that? And why would they wanna make you believe that?
ZAHARA VALENTIN: They posted on the news and all over social media. Like, it’s this Baltimore Murder Inc. page and like it’s a lot of killing.
VALENCIA CLAY: Say it, clearly.
ZAHARA VALENTIN: It’s a page on Instagram. It’s called Baltimore Murder Inc. And they post all of this homicide stuff and it’s mostly Black people. And on the news you see that Black people kill Black people. And you don’t really see whites kill whites.
VALENCIA CLAY: Keon.
SPEAKER: It’s not just a Black race. Actually all the races are equal to the amount of kills a month and a year and a week.
ANIJAH: Speaking of the news, they say like, they call us blacks predators. And like, we’re not, really not that like, like you said, lots of races do other crimes like us. But they make us seem like really bad people, but we’re really not.
ZAHARA VALENTIN: I feel as though there’s no type of race because we all came from the same place, and that we all were made the same. Just because we have different color, that don’t mean we’re all different. And we’re all harmful. I feel as though that, since we all came from the same place and that we’re different colors, that we should just all come together and be one.
SPEAKER: So, like say if somebody keeps callin’ someone dumb and stuff. Like, eventually they are gonna believe that they are dumb and so like, it kinda connects to what the black people, are like predators and stuff. So, like, if you keep saying that like we’re mean, we’re predators, we’re angry, we’re vicious, we’re blood-thirsty, it’s gonna like start sticking in our brains.
VALENCIA CLAY: I worked at a school, not in Baltimore. So, let’s put that out there, so nobody’s trying to go “So what school is she talkin about?” And I had to make sure that every month my students read ten books by themselves. Ten novels by themselves. This was true. And at the end of the month my administrators sat me down and they said, “We’re looking at your data. Your girls seem to be reading but your boys are not reading. Your boys haven’t even finished more than one book.” So I said, “Well, here’s the survey from my boys that I had them do as a reflection.” They honestly feel like these books are boring. So, I went on Facebook and I asked all my peers to give me some books for boys of color. I came back to my administration with 31 books on that list. My administration crossed out 21 of those books. Said we will not let them read these books because they are too hard. That was the response. And no one in my school is allowed to read ‘quote,’ this is what I’m quoting. “No one in my school will be allowed to read these books because they are too hard.”
So, you are unfit, this is what they were tell me. My boys are unfit. They are not capable of reading something that is below what a state test says that can or cannot do. Does that make sense?
SPEAKER: Yo, African-Americans can do as many things as any other race can do. So, sayin’ that is like sayin’ “what?” Because like I’m sitting up here right now, like I’m an amazing student. So are these people, like, and that doesn’t mean because we’re Black we’re doing it. Because we’re people, we’re able to express ourselves. It’s not because of our race. It’s not because we’re Mexican, Caucasian, any other thing. It’s because we’re people.
VALENCIA CLAY: He is a two time New York Times Best Seller. He is the Editor at large at Salon but the biggest thing that he is, is an inspiration to the kids. He does so many youth visits from the jails, to our classrooms. Didn’t he come to our classroom, y’all? He helped them with the books that are on sale tonight. He made sure they had what they need no matter how many times we had to hit ’em up. This is a real celebrity, and he does not care what time you call him. I will send him pictures of the lesson plan, like “Should I add this to this writing piece? Should I add that?” And he makes sure they get it done. So, we are so glad to have him here tonight. We are now gonna go into our second segment, which is Don’t Save Us. Y’all ready?
What is your definition of a hero?
D. WATKINS: You know, I think one thing I wanna say is that all heroes don’t wear capes. There’s a lot of heroes in this room. I think these students are heroes, so can we clap it up for them? One time. We all have to figure out what can we do as individuals to help the group. Cause it’s not, no one person like, back in the sixties and all that, you know, we had people like Martin Luther King and you know what happens when you put all of your heroes and all of your hopes and dreams into one person. Right? You kill that person, and the dream dies. You know, and so again, it’s up to everybody to identify with their passion. And work really, really, really hard to get, to achieve some type of mastery, whatever that is. And then to share those skills with other people.
Like I said, again, my thing is books and reading. I donate books to schools. I work with people that help me donate books to schools. I go to those schools, I work with kids. They fall in love with reading, they fall in love with writing. They tell their own stories. We have fun. We stay in contact, then and brand new artists are made. That’s what I’ve been successful doing, and it works for me. But, there’s other people that do other great things too. So, the answer is not just in one person. It’s in all of use.
Everybody in this room has the potential to be great, beyond any measure. But it’s up to you. You know, if you’re gonna do it or not.
SPEAKER: It’s like someone that takes responsibility for what they’ve done, and like, they show they persevere through like challenging times. They use their smarts to get through, you know, challenges that they have in their life.
ZAHARA VALENTIN: Then we can all be heroes in our own ways. We have to show it, and prove it, and let other people hear about it.
SPEAKER: Um, I feel like a hero is a person who shows leadership and wants to go above and beyond of what people think they’re capable of. And, leads others to the right path.
ANIJAH: And a hero to me, shows me that it’s okay to fail to succeed. Also, a hero to me shows that, influences me to do better and then just shows me the right path.
ZAHARA VALENTIN: I believe that if everybody does what they’re supposed to do, it wouldn’t be, like, homicides, and like a lot of stuff goin’ on in Baltimore.
VALENCIA CLAY: You know I’m gonna ask you, who is the “everybody” that you’re speakin’ about, and what are they supposed to do?
ZAHARA VALENTIN: Can you repeat that again?
VALENCIA CLAY: Uh huh. You said “We don’t need a hero because if everybody does what they’re supposed to do, we won’t see as much crime and poverty.” Who is the ‘everybody’ and what are they supposed to do?
ZAHARA VALENTIN: Everybody like the government.
VALENCIA CLAY: Oh, the government. Okay. What are they supposed to do?
ZAHARA VALENTIN: They’re supposed to like, I can’t explain it.
VALENCIA CLAY: You got help.
SPEAKER: In Ms. Clay class was talkin’ about how there’s more liquor stores in Baltimore than there was in Rec Centers for children to play like basketball or play on playgrounds and different things like that.
ANIJAH: The government like, sends money to the jails and not helpin’ schools or houses, abandoned houses, and, why givin’ money to jails because of the homicides in Baltimore because they’re arresting more Black people or others or other races instead of helpin’ us gettin’ better education or building more houses for other people to live in.
VALENCIA CLAY: Beautiful.
EDDIE CONWAY: Valencia Clay hopes to take the show on a national tour across the United States to creatively engage parents and children about critical issues that directly affect their lives. For the Real New Network, this is Eddie Conway.