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Monday, November 24, 2014

These Little Boys: On Life and Death and Race

This past Saturday a 13 year boy became a Bar Mitzvah, an occasion marked by the gathering of his family members and cherished friends, from camp, preschool, Sunday school, and junior high. Dressed in their finest, guests ate well and danced to everything from that old classic "Shout" to "YMCA" and the latest hits by Nicki Minaj. There were ice cream dessert bars for adults and kids alike, and amped up versions of childhood games like musical chairs and Coke and Pepsi. There were glow sticks, blinking plastic novelty rings, and plenty of smiles and laughter, all celebrating the greatest accomplishment, so far, in a boy's life. Maybe this doesn't mean anything to you, this religious ceremony that welcomes teenage Jewish boys into assuming responsibility for their actions and for their Jewish faith. But for these boys, and the girls who become Bat Mitzvahs, these occasions will help to prepare the ground for their future accomplishments as adults. 

I am not Jewish, but as a photographer, present for these important life events, I have often wondered about the lives of these little boys compared to the lives of my three African-American nephews and their friends of color.  Two of my nephews, ages 14 and 12 and attending struggling public schools, are already experiencing the frustrations of being left behind academically. And we're trying, my family and I, we're trying and praying with all of our might to right this ship, to protect these boys in their boyhood and, yet, prepare them for an adult world that is forced on them all too soon. Try as we do to give them ice cream filled Saturdays, and happy family times, on a night like this, I feel powerless, but not hopeless. My nephews, these 3 little boys, are my little boys, and your little boys. So for tonight, before I feel discouraged, I'm going to look at a photo of my little boys, and I'll keep on, we'll keep on, loving you and protecting you, and all of these little boys.

My beautiful three nephews

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