Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Youth Voices: Jonathan Williams

When I first met Jonathan, he was soft-spoken and laughed often. In between interviews, he talked about “females” and wanting to get his driver’s license. When we shot b-roll on the street, he would stop people and chat with them about school or the military or whatever other topic popped into his head. Jonathan is an easy-going, likable guy.

One afternoon, when the red record light was off and we were chatting on the way back to the car, he shouted hello to a guy across the street. Just making casual conversation, I asked if the guy was in his program. “Nah,” Jonathan said, “we were on vacation together.” Genuinely excited to hear about his trip, I asked him where they went, wondering if it was a perk of the program and thinking how great of an experience it must be for him to get out of the city. Jonathan just chuckled and said, “Nah, it’s not that kind of vacation, we were incarcerated together.”
Hand to the forehead moment.

Depending on an interviewee’s personality, the lens of a camera can either cause a person to clam up or open up. In Jonathan’s case, if people are willing to listen, he’s willing to talk. During the time we spent working on his Youth Voices video, he touched on topics from gang violence, to family loss, to homelessness. Jonathan tells stories exactly how he sees them and is not afraid to give his opinion, even when he prefaces his thoughts with, “don’t get me wrong,” and “I don’t want to offend anybody, but this is how it is.” His honesty leaves you sickened by the system, but rooting for him and his generation.

Once the camera is turned off though, it’s easy to forget his struggles, because he’s just another guy. 

We mentioned in last week’s blog that November is Homeless Youth Awareness Month and that homeless youth are an invisible population. Homeless youth and disconnected youth are often one in the same. Unstable housing makes lasting stability in jobs or school next to impossible. Sadly, most of the time an average person only hears about a homeless youth or a disconnected youth in DC when they are in the news for theft or gang violence or worse. What these news stories fail to mention is everything that leads up to that single bad choice; personal histories that many youth keep hidden.

Jonathan’s story is one worth listening to and his on-camera persona and off-camera personality are one in the same. Young people are multifaceted human beings with complicated pasts and undefined futures. As members of the DC community, we should do more than just root for Jonathan’s generation. It is our responsibility to ensure all youth like Jonathan have a place to stay, a warm meal to eat, opportunities for employment in the city, and the chance to be a contributing member of society.

Because after the YouTube video ends, Jonathan’s just a 21 year old guy trying to survive in Washington, DC. 

Want to help youth like Jonathan? Read the Plan to End Youth Homelessness in DC and write your councilmember a letter stating why DC must invest in opportunities for local youth.

E-Sign-On Letter

Plan to End Youth Homelessness in DC

Personalized Sign-On Letter

Pre-populated Sign-On Letter

As the Multimedia and Communications Associate at DCAYA, Angela Massino, works to #unmask  youth homelessness through social media outreach and short films. You can follow Jonathan Williams Twitter and Tumblr campaign #iamDC as he defines what it means to be a youth living in Washington, DC. 

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