A lot of kids in the city get a bad rap these days: their public schools are, as a rule, failing them, and the folks who call in to Town Talk don't understand why they aren't as good or as kind as the callers themselves were, back in the day. Spend a little time with them, though, and you'll find that city kids, like kids everywhere, are bright and funny and know more then you might think: that was Marti Frumhoff's experience.
A few summers ago, in 1999, Marti and other adult volunteers started up a publishing club with the kids who come to Friedens Haus, a community center in the Hyde Park neighborhood of north St. Louis. Hyde Park is, in some ways, a tough neighborhood to be a kid in. It's suffered from the same economic and social disinvestment as many neighborhoods on the north side. That summer, Marti and the other teachers armed the kids in their program with cheap 35-mm cameras and let them fire away to capture the things that mattered to them. Their goal, says Marti, was "to teach them about photography and writing and how to make a dream come true." They learned some principles of photography, did writing exercises and visited a printing press to learn how the whole package comes together. All the participants receive 15 copies each of the finished booklet, to distribute to family and friends.
The photographs below have previously been published in the Publishing Club's book (click on a thumbnail to view the large version); the writings are a sample of what you'll find in the forthcoming edition, available for purchase in February at Left Bank Books.
My Song: A Break
Some-times I need a break
Some-times you do too
On my breaks I sit, write and
Say I wonder what do you do.
By Marquita Raspberry, age 13
I'm a new leader because I can help others, and I listen very well. I did all of my work in class. And I think I can do it every day.
By Gladys Woodard, age 10
The most important thing about Me is that I
I have breath I act like no one else
and I feel great I don't copy and I
like things that nobody else like
I also like to make people laugh
The most important thing about me
is that I am me
I look like no other I enjoy
cleaning I hate sports and I love go-kart
The most important thing about me is
that I am me
By Maurice Raspberry, age 12
I like things in my neighborhood. I like how the street blocked off at the top so the kids won't get hit because when the cars come up and down the street they be going real fast and last year a kid got hit. I like how the trash stay off the ground.
I don't like a lot of things. How people come up and out of the street and say bitch or ho or nigger and be cursing and fight. I feel sad when people fight. It was a fight yesterday.
By DeMarkus Winston, age 11
We went to city hall to take picture of things. So when we get done, we will make our picture book. I took a picture of the St. Louis Arch.
This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm going to let
Let it shine
Let it shine
Let it shine
By Nadia Robb, age 11