Youth activism and homelessness

Recently my sister Lisa encouraged me to share more of my photos. I’ve enjoyed doing so and hearing people’s comments. Once in a while I’ll think about all the time and effort I put into photography, and how that will all disappear when I’m no longer here.

Some great surprises have come from this. Yesterday I was reminded of a series of photos taken on a very rainy night in downtown Indianapolis. My friend Jim Poyser was involved with a group of students from Brebeuf, a Jesuit high school in Indianapolis. The students were concerned about the homeless situation in Indianapolis, and decided to camp out on the Circle in the center of the city to call attention to that. Dana Parker and Parker Herschberger were the student leaders.

Dana Parker and Parker Herschberger

Jim knew I enjoyed taking photos of social justice actions and asked me to attend this gathering. When the evening arrived there was a sustained, heavy rain. I was sure the camp out would be canceled, and I really didn’t want to go out into the rain. I also knew it would be a real challenge to get decent photos in the dark and the rain.

But I had told Jim I would be there. Also, try as I might to talk myself out of going, there was a persistent pressure from my Inner Light that was pushing me to go. So I walked 14 blocks downtown, not expecting to see anything. Instead I was rewarded with the amazing sight pictured below.

The students held another rally, this time without rain, to continue to bring attention to homelessness. Several city council members were there. And some men who didn’t have homes at the time, also spoke, very movingly. These are two important points about pubic advocacy. Persistence is important. And it is also important to lift up the voices of those who are experiencing the injustice.

This work continued when several months later, during a Martin Luther King, Jr, celebration at the Christian Theological Seminary, both Jim and Dana gave presentations. Dana talked about the homelessness work, including showing some of the photos I had taken that night.

Jim talked about his work in bringing youth to the state legislature to talk to lawmakers about youth’s concerns about the environment.

Last night after posting some of those photos, I received a great message from Dana. “Thank you for remembering this as wonderfully as I do! I’m currently studying at Trinity College in Hartford, CT and recently declared my major as human rights!”

Working on issues of injustice is often difficult, and it can seem not much progress happens. But I enjoy the stories here as examples of how things can unfold. The persistence of these young people, the leadership of Jim Poyser, the inclusion of those experiencing homelessness, and the creativity of their efforts is a story of how this work can succeed.

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