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Writing to Heal: NOLA Program Uses Poetry, Essays to Help Students Confront Trauma

Photo courtesy 4.0 Schools
Photo courtesy 4.0 Schools

(T74) – When the bus pulled up in front of the convenience store where 37-year-old Alton Sterling was killed three months before by two Baton Rouge police officers, Nic Aziz had his students go inside and pick out something they would usually buy. Candy, chips, soda pop — something seemingly inconsequential.

To do this, the 16 young people, most with little experience outside their impoverished New Orleans neighborhood, had to walk past a mural painted with Sterling’s likeness and an altar covered in flowers and photos brought by community members.

Sterling’s July 5, 2016 killing — at close range and while being held to the ground by officers who had responded to a call reporting someone with a gun making threats outside the store — was captured on video by the store’s owner and patrons. Protests engulfed Baton Rouge in the days following the shooting. In May, after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute the officers, Louisiana officials announced their own investigation.

As Aziz suspected they would, the teens responded to the ad hoc memorial’s fierce beauty. The kids, all students at New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School, sat down outside the Triple S Food Market to write letters to Sterling.

Read more here.

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