Melissa Scott was inspired to join Youth Organizing to Save Out Streets after hearing the March to End Gun Violence chants from her aunt’s home. Melissa is an artist and has submitted a piece to the S.O.S. Arts to End Violence Initiative. She is graduating from YO S.O.S. this June. Here is her story:

Melissa Scott welcoming guests to the
Arts to End Violence Gallery Opening on May 23, 2012
“It was around late October when I saw them. I was coming home from school and had stopped by my aunt’s day care. I remember clearly the conversation we were having before I heard the resonating chants from outside.
We were discussing, as we always did, the obligations I had to myself to be strong and to power through what I thought was a life crisis. The previous summer, I had moved to brooklyn under circumstances that no one could of predicted. I had come here under the false assumption that our move was temporary, and yet a month later, days before the end of the summer, I was still here. The move had taken an emotional toll on me, and the world I knew and was used to had collapsed around me. I hadn’t noticed until the damage was irreversible. At one point, it was three weeks into the semester and I still hadn’t been enrolled in school. When I finally was enrolled, I was way behind. In the most important year of my high school career, my grades were of standards that I refused to except. I was frustrated and anxious, and it didn’t help that I had low morale and felt completely lost and without a purpose. I remember sitting there that day saying I had given up on school and on my self. My aunt sat there listening to me and I knew that even though she was open minded, she wouldn’t understand. My environment didn’t have the richness it used to have; a week of school would pass and I would feel like I hadn’t learned anything and I had no drive to persuade myself to make the effort.

Melissa Scott’s submission to Arts to End Violence
 entitled “Result”

Then the phone rang, and I sat there waiting for my aunt to get off the phone. I tuned my self out of the world and simply stared off into space. At first it came in incoherent waves of noise, loud and fuzzy. As the source of the noise came closer, the words became clearer and subconsciously I became aware of them. I got up and exited the day care. When I stepped out, I was immediately lost into a massive crowd of people. The next thing I know, someone had handed me a flyer. I didn’t look at it as I was still trying to tune into the words on the megaphone. I edged through the crowd telling my aunt I wouldn’t go far, but soon I was lost within the sea of black and white. I found myself chanting the words before I realized what I was saying: “You save my child, I’ll save yours. You watch my back, I’ll watch yours”. I looked around at everyone and relished what I was truly in the middle of. Here and there, I saw anti-gun posters, shirts that depicted the faces of deceased ones, a poster with a child saying “Don’t shoot I wanna grow up”. I followed them as they marched, my feet moving in sync with those around me. I didn’t know where they were going, but I knew that I would follow. I had never in my life seen a group of people come together in such a large mass and voice there beliefs so loudly. Even though I was lost in a sea of unknown faces, I felt my heart swell with joy, my body humming, my soul uplifted for the first time in months.

The marchers turned into a small park that I assumed was blocks away from my house. People began speaking while others handed out balloons and markers which we were told to use to write messages on the balloons. I found myself shuffling around, helping to distribute the balloons and markers, and fearlessly socializing with the members of the organization known as S.O.S., trying to find out how exactly they worked. Even with the brief summary the members provided, I still couldn’t wrap my mind around what it was they did and how they did it. I phoned my aunt reassuring her that I could find my way back home, and when I hung up the phone and looked around for someone who I could approach to
get directions, I heard her. A women with a strong booming voice that as she continued to talk could only be described as passionate and caring, yet assertive and demanding. She spoke strongly of her views on the issue of violence and the power within community. Her name was Ife, and her words contained the power to empower me to step up. At that very moment I acknowledged myself as a member of that community; at that very moment I developed a voice. She was calling out to the crowd, telling us that we could have an impact, that we could make a change. I had found something to be passionate about; I believed every word of it. 

When she was finished I was left stunned as all around me balloons were released into the air, a perfect addition to the moment. I had simply wrote on my ballon “peace, love, and community”. I looked at the letters for one last time before releasing it into the air.

Melissa Scott standing with her piece entitled
“Result” at the Arts to End Violence
Gallery Opening on May 23, 2012

Fast forward a week later, I met a violence interrupter of S.O.S., a friend of my aunt’s, for the first time. He was very charismatic and was delighted to help me. When I asked him to join S.O.S., he chuckled and asked me how old I was. I replied and he directed me to YO S.O.S. I was nervous at first to join a program filled with youth my age who were more familiar with the area then me. I was scared to venture out socially and acquaint myself with them. But that I did. And here I am now, it’s the last weeks of april and I have been thoroughly involved in YO S.O.S. I have a stable environment filled with individuals who are passionate about many things, who influenced me to care to choose the right path, and most importantly, who helped me believe in myself, my environment, and my voice. “

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