Arts Create Safe Environments by Jennifer "JayBee" Beasley

jaybee.jpg

Some of the states most pressing issues are of public safety. Having adequate lighting or just enough space in order to hold a group of people is something that other places take for granted. In Compton, our once dense market of business and thoroughfare have been dilapidated and misused for years. Political corruption and greed have marked our city with more than just graffiti. As a youth growing up in Compton. I didn’t see any place I could go nor was I able to express myself or get away from life occurrences. It wasn’t always about gang violence but sometimes getting out of the house or being able to go to a park that wasn’t festering with homeless or trash was hard to do. I never saw a drug deal. I was around bangers although I did see a shooting once. The way our city is portrayed on TV is not an accurate depiction of what the people who actually live here see on the day-to-day basis.

We work, we have less than adequate wages, we have water bill’s higher than anyone in the county and property taxes that are sky high. Yet we get the third tier groceries and the last of the last of any hand out that the state decides to give. Being a young black woman from Compton is not praised in university classrooms and I saw that first hand. They didn’t care about my poetry and music they only cared about how many times I’ve been shot at and if I ever met Dr. Dre. For students and even some senior citizens who have never been able to express themselves with the very thing that our city is known for other than violence, it is imperative that public safety as well as a safe place to go is given to the city of Compton. 

After being placed in remission I wanted to provide a healthy space for people in my circle. Knowing that I was exceptionally good at public speaking and writing really made me want to tap into the uncharted territory of open mics and public forums for performance. I started the Compton open mic with nothing except a dream and the blessing of our cities Mayor, Aja Brown. After also starting my business, I decided to take on more than just the open mic and started allowing young people to volunteer and intern with me and enter spaces that they would normally not have been able to. This has been exceptionally meaningful for myself and for my community at large. Kids who would have normally never stepped in front of a microphone have been able to say poetry that they’ve only held in their minds. Senior citizens whose families have sometimes forgotten them have been able to express themselves to art or making buttons or singing a song they wrote. It’s something they can count on on the last Thursday of every month for the last two years. I am not rich and the 9-to-5 that I have is only part time. With funding I would be able to provide a bigger space with adequate lighting and more resources for the people who have no other choice but to pray and perform. Compton needs this. Our community needs this.

Whitney Kear