America is supposed to be the nation of the free. We are allowed to protest, to speak, to believe, but what happens when all this is taken away? How can one survive in this country when there are wars that occur every day? These wars are unknown to most. They occur on the streets were rape, drugs, murder and kidnap could be found. There is one way to survive in this country where hate is found that is to find freedom within thyself and within others who accept you. This was accomplished through 150 students who believed strongly that barriers were meant to be broken.
In 1994, Erin Gruwell became a teacher to 150 students at Wilson High located in Long Beach California. It was made clear that she was to receive a freshmen class due to “seniority”. What most people are not aware is that Ms. Gruwell had done many amazing things before teaching, when she was a student teacher. The wonderful field trips shown in the movie “Freedom Writers” actually began before she met the students that would change lives forever. The interesting thing is Ms. Gruwell was prepared for the worst going into the setting. As the students were introduced to this “white lady who knew nothing ‘bout the ‘hood” they began to bet on how long she would even stay. Gruwell however did not want to give up, knowing these students needed the taste of true freedom.
The beginning chapter “Freshmen Year: Fall 1994” began to show the insight of these students’ minds. They were all different, but they all came to the same place. “Diary 6” began to describe the feeling of the streets. This person described the feeling of losing a friend to “the war”. They proceed to describe an event he had witnessed at a liquor store. He stated there was a person who was purchasing items as he heard a gunshot ring, the bullet pierced the consumers face, killing him instantly. A sister knelt by the side of the victim, a mother stood in horror. Images like these do not leave a person’s head so easily. “When his birthday comes, presents will no longer be given to him. They will be replaced by flowers, put on his grave. That’s just the way it is.” It is sad to accept this as the usual. Unfortunately teens today accept this as the normal as well.
Within the same chapter “Diary 7” and “Diary 8” describe the way one is brought into this life unknown. To be known and to survive you must be willing to stay with; “your own” and die with; “your own”. You are not to be against them, fight with one fight with all. They describe rituals on how to show the willingness some are to be safe, to be known, to not get hurt. “Diary 7” describes that they were jumped into the life. They state that they will continue to jump the person for as long as they like, most resulting in trips to the hospital. Their own stay lasted 3 weeks in the hospital with many fractured bones, but they believed it was worth it. They believe it is worth the pain because in the end they have people to protect them. “Diary 8” describes the ritual of joining a club on campus to become popular. The girls were forced to give senior boys sexual pleasures, roll down hills, be urinated on and much worse things. These are great examples of how youth has not changed. The youth of today want the same things as well.
The difference between the rest of the teachers who try and reach the students with “no hope” in life was the fact that Gruwell chose books that have similarities with their lives as well. Their freshmen year in the fall she had them read a short story referred to as “The Last Spin”. The students describe the story as two rival gang members Tigo and Dave, whose problems have escalated. The two main characters realize that their fighting has gotten out of hand and they need to solve the problem just the two of them. Unfortunately Tigo dies due to the violence brought. One student states that Tigo’s death was brought upon himself through stupidity. It amazes me that students who only know the life of the streets...
Cited: The Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell. The Freedom Writers Diary. United States, New York: Broadway Books, 1999 Print.
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