Erin GruwellWhat’s going on? What is that? Give it to me. What is this?
Jamal Hill Just leave it alone.
Erin Gruwell You think this is funny? Tito? Would this be funny if it were a picture of you? […] You know something? I saw a picture just like this once in a museum. Only it wasn’t a black man; it was a Jewish man. And instead of the big lips, he had a really big nose. […] But he wasn’t just one particular Jewish man. This was a drawing of all Jews. And these drawings were put in the newspapers by the most famous gang in history. You think you know all about gangs? You’re amateurs. This gang would put you all to shame. And they started out poor and angry, and everybody looked down on them. Until one man decided to give them some pride, an identity, and somebody to blame. You take over neighborhoods? That’s nothing compared to them. They took over countries. And you wanna know how? They just wiped out everybody else. Yeah, they wiped out everybody they didn’t like, and everybody they blamed for their life being hard. And one of the ways they did it was by doing this. See, they’d print pictures like this in the newspapers. […] That’s how a holocaust happens. And that’s what you all think of each other.
MarcusYou don’t know nothing, homegirl!
Erin Gruwell No, I don’t, Marcus! So why don’t you explain it to me?
Marcus […] Do you even know how we live?
Student 1 We was here first, man.
Erin Gruwell All right! All right! All right! So what you’re saying is, if the Latinos weren’t here, or the Cambodians or the blacks or the whites or whoever they are, if they weren’t here, everything would be better for you, isn’t that right?
Student 2Of course it’d be better! It’d be better if you weren’t here.
Erin Gruwell Right. Right. It starts with a drawing like this, and then some kid dies in a drive-by, never even knowing what hit him.
Eva Benitez You don’t know nothing! You don’t know the pain we feel. You don ’t know what we got to do. You got no respect for how we living. […] It’s all about color. It’s about people deciding what you deserve, about people wanting what they don’t deserve, about whites thinking they run this world no matter what. […]
PHOTOS: PARAMOUNT PICTURES
Erin Gruwell We’re gonna play a game, all right? It’s a lot of fun. I promise. […] This is called the Line Game. I’m gonna ask you a question. If that question applies to you, you step onto the line, and then step back away again for the next question. Easy, right? The first question: how many of you have the new Snoop Dogg album? [A lot of students step onto the line.] OK, back away. Next question: how many of you have seen Boyz n the Hood? [A lot of students step onto the line, with few exceptions.] OK, next question: how many of you live in the projects? [Quite a few students step onto the line.] How many of you know someone, a friend or a relative, who was or is in juvenile hall or jail? [Quite a few students step onto the line.] […] How many of you know someone in a gang? [A lot of students step onto the line.] […] OK, now I’m gonna ask you a more serious question. Stand on the line if you lost a friend to gang violence. [Almost all the students step onto the line.] Stay on the line if you’ve lost more than one friend. [Many students continue standing.] Three. Four or more. OK, I’d like us to pay respect to those people now. Wherever you are, just speak their names. Thank you all very much.
PHOTOS: PARAMOUNT PICTURES
Erin Gruwell Now I have something for each of you. Everyone has their own story. And it’s important for you to tell your own story, even to yourself. So what we’re going to do is, we’re gonna write every day in these journals. You can write about whatever you want, the past, the present, the future. You can write it like a diary, or you can write songs, poems, any good thing or bad thing, anything. But you have to write every day. Keep a pen nearby. Whenever you feel the inspiration. And they won’t be graded. How can I give an A or a B for writing the truth, right? And I will not read them unless you give me permission. I will need to see that you’ve made an entry, but I’ll just do this, skim to see if you wrote that day. Now, if you want me to read it, I have a cabinet over here. It has a lock on it. I’ll keep it open during class, and you can leave your diary here if you want me to read it. I will lock this cabinet at the end of every class. OK? So you can each come up, one by one, and take your own journal. Whenever you’re ready.