Voices From Skid Row

January 30th, 2006 by Alex

I’m originally from Baltimore, Maryland. Now, I’m hardly from the mean streets of Baltimore, but any city resident knows how gritty the city can be, and growing up the son of a prosecutor, I knew it acutely. And one of the things I knew growing up was that our newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, sometimes pushed the hard realities of the city off its pages. The murder of a well-to-do white person is almost always news in Baltimore, but the Sun barely ever takes notice of the murder of a less well-off black person, and certainly almost never mentions it on the front page.

One of the reasons I’m fascinated by, and so happy to see, the rise of personal media is that sometimes our “Old Media” keeps the historically voiceless silent. Personal media is a way for all of us to circumvent the media filter, sure, but for the people who almost never find their way through the filter, personal media can be absolutely vital when used properly.

In Los Angeles, it’s kids who are leading the way, showing their elders how the stories of people traditionally ignored by society can now be told.

Franklin Arburtha was just 13 when he saw a friend’s mother stabbed to death. Afterwards, he went down to a vigil being held for the slain woman and, video camera in hand, asked people in his “Skid Row” community their feelings about the murder. That was the genesis for a 25-minute documentary he calls We’re Not Bad Kids. I caught a brief piece on Arburtha, now 14, on CNN.com — you can read an interview with him here.

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