4Culture, in partnership with King County’s Juvenile Court and Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, is developing arts-based alternatives to incarceration for court involved youth.
Creative Alternatives is an innovative program in which regional artists will collaborate with young people and their families to consider the root causes of youth incarceration (as they intersect with racism, classism and other oppressions) and focus on the positive role youth voice can have in creating social transformation.
Seattle-based writer, educator and counselor, Aaron Counts has been selected serve as Lead Engagement Artist. He will act as program coordinator and liaison to mentor artists and the Court, facilitating partnerships and assisting in the development and implementation of the year-long pilot.
Aaron understands the transformative power of art. He has written and read with professors, prisoners, dropouts, and scholars. He is an artist-in-residence with the Writers-in-the-Schools program, co-author of the non-fiction text Reclaiming Black Manhood, and a long-time lecturer on the subject of race and social justice. His writing has recently appeared in Specter Magazine, Bestiary, Aldebaran Review and Rufous City Review, though his first publication was on an old Kenmore refrigerator on 7th Street in Yakima. Aaron holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia.
Praise Song for Good Hair
praise the smoky voice
of the diva curling through the
thick air of the salon.
praise the comfortable song that settles
on your shoulders like a lazy cat. praise the lack
of bass in the room. praise the treble, the strong
spine of the women, and their patience.
praise patience. praise nimble fingers
twisting locks into the head of a young
boy, sleepy from a long day at school.
praise dozing under the hot dryer, and rest
when you can get it. praise the womb
here in this room, and its softness.
whenever possible, you must praise softness.
praise the magic brown hands conjure.
the care, the intimate whisper in your boy’s ear.
praise the song and the singing along.
praise the griot, the stories told
by benevolent queens. praise the holding
court, the not-caring. praise the checking
of brothers, here and elsewhere.
praise the mmm-hmmms and okaaays,
and the men that know not to try it.
praise royalty and those that recognize it.
praise the smiles, the clowning.
praise the jokes black women tell
only to each other, praise eavesdropping,
and lessons learned. praise laughing,
praise the laugh.
praise first loves and intimacy,
the fingers that cradle
your scalp. praise good hair,
because it’s all good hair.
praise the almost-white light-skinned boy
learning what it means
to be black.