MBK Newark Youth Reflection
FEBRUARY 21, 2018
My name is Khali Raymond, and I am nineteen years old. I was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. At the age of fifteen, I wrote my first book, The Ballad of Sidney Hill. It’s about an eighteen year old who was forced to move from Florida to Badlands, a fictional city in Pennsylvania, which was filled with crime and desperation.
I use my books and my passion for writing to open doors for those who look like me and come from similar circumstances. So they can see that they can create opportunities for themselves too. I help to tell their story, because too often they cannot do it themselves. My goal is for people to look past my story, and where and how I grew up, to see the potential of Newark’s youth.
Newark raised me and I can see it changing for the better, but here’s an ugly truth: about 7,000 of Newark’s youth are out of school or not working, the majority are young men of color. That’s a problem. I can see for myself that it is even worse for young men of color. The question I ask is – what can we do to make opportunity available for everyone in the city to benefit?
That’s why I became a My Brother’s Keeper Newark Fellow. My mission is to get more young people to take that next step in accomplishing their goals. As a writer and a poet, I see art as a way to engage young people. Art is all around us; from the music we listen to, the murals on buildings all over the city, to the people. I believe art helps young people find words where they may not exist. I have turned my passion for art into a career as a writer and I think Newark can create a bigger economy in the arts. It is not just performers and artists who can make money in the arts, but set designers, engineers, promoters. Newark is already well-known in the arts and I think we can bring that back, especially with the new tourism and the development downtown.