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Heads and Tails

Albert, Tony, Miguel and Cliff are more than stories of triumph or defeat. Each of their stories reveals their own realities of struggle, fear and tragedy. Each of them exemplifies an emphatic ethic for change. Their stories are the stories of many, and their insights offer important context and perspectives that can help inform how one views community, leadership and structural levers for change.

In each story there is a local community organization that provides support, direction and even shelter and protection. There is also a clear picture of the failure of local policy or public systems in their lives and the lives of their peers.

Albert speaks about the Algebra Project with reverence in honor of the impact it had on his life, while offering a broader analysis of the lack of arts, recreation and enrichment activities available to young people of color in Jackson.

Miguel is a straight-A student, an organizer and champion for justice in East Nashville, yet we can’t use Miguel’s real name, nor do you see his face because he immigrated to this country at 10 years old without going through the legal naturalization channels. So, even as he gives the best of himself to improve the lives of all who live in his community, he has to remain faceless.

Tony shares a story finding his passion for art and dance and sense of community justice through his involvement in the Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association (VAYLA). Yet the community he describes is one where access to healthy foods and quality health care are sparse, while the nearby levees still stand unequipped to protect residents from “natural” disaster.

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