Turning 10, Youth Rights Revisits Cop-Teen Divide

Allan Appel PhotoAt 16, Chelsea Martin has already lost people she cares about to violence. She has found a positive way to deal with that.

The high student has signed on with Youth Rights Media and helped put together a new video about the criminal justice.

The video was screened to a reunion crowd of two dozen people who attended the organization’s tenth birthday celebration Tuesday night at YRM’s office and studios on Willow Street in New Haven.

YRM began ten years ago when a Yale undergrad and two Yale law students teamed up to teach kids about their rights and responsibilities in encounters with police.

A dozen films by young documentarians later, YRM’s latest documentary goes back to the future, as teens like Chelsea Martin and her good friend Adina McCray were part of the team making another movie on law enforcement. In this one too cops and kids share their often differing perspectives of each other.

Click here on YRM’s YouTube site to view the group’s past work. (No web links or excerpts of the new video were available.)

The as-yet-unnamed new documentary is not quite finished, said Adina McCray who got her video start in church, specifically at the Mt. Zion Seventh Day Adventist Church in Hamden. At the tender age of 12 she pitched in orchestrating the video and running monitors showing the scripture, video, and accompanying audio, and song equipment. She still supervises the crew there.

Adina wants to do this kind of work when she grows up. “This is definitely a job, but one I love,” she said.

These two best friends, who have known each other since they were 11, are among about 22 kids studying documentary film-making or music production in sessions held on Monday, Thursday and Friday nights.

Last summer both girls also worked on “Unspoken,” a YRM media film that addresses gun violence and the stereotyping of teenagers. Chelsea said part of her motivation to work on that one was that she had three friends or acquaintances who have been killed in New Haven gun violence.

Click here to see a trailer from “Unspoken.”

“One of the reasons she’s so driven to be part of YRM [is] youth need a place and a voice,” added her mom, Regina Martin. She said her daughter believes that if her murdered friends “had been part of something like this, they wouldn’t have lost their lives.”

Chelsea said she hopes the new film will be shown in the city’s high schools.

The kids themselves will brainstorm the subject for the new documentary they will commence in January. Problems of teen unemployment and perhaps inadequate housing for young people are two suggestions that Chelsea said she will make to YRM’s executive director, Janis Astor Del Valle.

Adina endorsed that idea. “Some kids need to make money to help support their family and no one is hiring a 16-year old even for a basic entry level job,” she said.

The classes, along with stipends if necessary, are free and open to city teens on a first-come basis, said Del Valle. Contact YRM here or call: 776-4034. The group is currently registering participants for the upcoming session, which begins Jan. 7.


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posted by: TreHillVille on December 12, 2012  2:23pm

This young lady’s account of the police not showing up to a report of a person shot after 40 minutes, and then only after he was described as white, is obviously untrue and unfounded. If there was any substance to this story there would have been 911 tapes and transcripts included in this article. Articles like this only add to the misperception of police and widens the social disconnect between the police and the black community. Maybe this young lady’s perception of time is warped. Could she have been referring to seconds and not minutes? I don’t know. There are ignorant people out there that believe everything they read. This article only serves one purpose and that purpose is to sensationalized a story to captivate naive readers (particularly black youth) that believe something like this is even possible.

posted by: Ex-NHPD on December 12, 2012  3:55pm

Time for the NHI to do some follow-up to the claim.
When did the alleged non response, by NHPD, NHFD, and AMR occur?
Check the 911 tapes for the details of the call to verify what was reported.
Was there really a gunshot victim, or was this is “Test” of the 911 call system?

NHI—Please let your readers know what you find.

posted by: NHFan on December 12, 2012  4:27pm

To the other commenters: I don’t think an anecdote with so few details should be the focal point of this story—there’s also nothing to imply that this happened in New Haven or was the fault of the NHPD. It simply sounds like this experience inspired further exploration, and these girls are doing some great work around youth/police relations as a result.

Keep it up, Chelsea and Adina!

posted by: Ex-NHPD on December 12, 2012  4:44pm

My mistake.  They claim the incident occurred in Hamden. 
Same challenge for NHI.
Check it out.  If they called 911 from a cell phone, you might have to check CSP 911 tapes and the call transfer to Hamden.
What agencies responded, what was the response time, was there an injured person found , was there really an incident/injured person?

posted by: NHPDHartman on December 12, 2012  5:33pm

This story sent a shock-wave through the NHPD moments after it was posted. Four department employees spent almost two hours trying to research this unbelievable claim.

The reason we were unsuccessful was that no such incident happened in New Haven. I even fielded a reporter’s inquiry on the matter from an out of state press agency.

Even amended, the article’s tone still implies a city connection, “on Dixwell Avenue over the town line in…”. I fail to see the importance of the “over the town line” part.

The response to shootings in New Haven is swift - like low single digit minutes swift. I would hope the NHI has done their homework regarding such a claim (even if the claim isn’t their own). If this accusation is, in fact false, the NHI owes a lot of cops a very public apology.

I find the opening lines to this article sickening, because of the uncalled for, provocative and unbelievable claim that somewhere out there, there are Officers, dispatchers and/ or a whole department conspiring (along with the Fire Department and Ambulance company, mind you) to delay assistance to someone who’s been shot until the victim is reported to be white.

[Editor’s note: Point well taken. I apologize for publishing this story without our having independently confirmed the story told in the video. We’ve removed that part pending confirmation.]

posted by: YRMED on December 13, 2012  12:03am

I concur with NHFan, and want to reiterate that Chelsea’s “experience inspired further exploration, and these girls are doing some great work around youth/police relations as a result.”

As executive director of Youth Rights Media (YRM), I did not sanction the original article –- in fact, I shared my concerns with NHI that it would alienate the police –- the total antithesis of what we seek to do. Our short documentary –- which is a work-in-progress –- endeavors to improve police/youth relations, and we are most grateful for the unwavering support that has been provided to YRM by Chief Esserman, Sgt. Rodriguez and Officer Forti.

But the reporter chose to highlight a controversial moment in our film, shifting the focus from what our event was really about:  a chance for people to meet our youth, experience their work, engage in discourse and celebrate YRM’s decade-long commitment to providing youth with opportunities to explore and define the world around them.

In addition to the work-in-progress on police/youth relations, we screened the youth’s powerful, short video on disaster relief, inspired by superstorm Sandy, and we played music written by the talented youth in our Songwriting & Recording workshop.

Thank you, Paul for amending this article to better reflect the positive, inspiring work done by YRM youth and staff.

posted by: Ex-NHPD on December 13, 2012  1:51pm

In order to respond fully to YRMED, I will have to repeat the claim that is being debated in reader’s posts, for context, since the NHI removed it from the article.

A girl IN THE FILM THAT WAS SCREENED claimed that this past summer, she and her friend called 911 to report a person shot and no one (Police or Medical) responded for 30-40 minutes; yet when they called back and said the victim was white, there was a response in less than 5 minutes.  This happened on the New Haven/Hamden boundary line.

Based upon my 25+ years at the NHPD, I find the scenario described to be HIGHLY improbable.

YRMED bemoans that this “controversial moment”  from the film was highlighted by the author and that shifted from part of what the event was about-to engage in discourse.  I think discourse has not been shifted. Rather, she does not like the discourse it has created.

By her labeling the moment “Controversial”, and still including it in the “Documentary”, did YRMED have an qualms about the veracity of the moment that was described?  As the Executive Director of YMR, did she not feel any responsibility to verify the claim?  If this controversial moment turns out to be not true, or greatly exaggerated, doesn’t this impact the integrity of this documentary, and by extension, the YRM?

I am not trying to demean or belittle anyone or the YRM.  However, they rang the bell when that moment was included in the documentary.  They made the claim of Racism. The allegation is a smear against local Police/Fire/EMT.

I again ask the NHI to look into this and report their findings to their readers.  Like it or not, the NHI is in this as well.  They published an outrageous claim without any follow-up questioning or request for details.

I also look forward to hearing how YRM handles this as an organization.  Will they see it as a teaching moment or will they see it as an attack on the YRM and their mission?  How those who lead the YRM address this with the young adults they work with will greatly impact on how these young adults explore and define the world around them.