When Professor Clarence Nero and his teaching colleagues walked into their classrooms for the first time after the tumultuous summer of 2016—a summer that in Baton Rouge had seen the murders of Alton Sterling and innocent police officers as well as a vast and historic flood—they had no idea what to expect from students. This wasn’t any ordinary semester at Baton Rouge Community College. Many enrolled students had lost their homes due to flooding; most were still reeling from the shootings and the subsequent protests and riots that rocked the capital city. There were students who had been traumatized in ways that defied simple explanations. Not only did Professor Nero understand that they were pain—he had lived with and through the same hellish nightmare that summer—he was determined to let them give expression to their experiences and reactions. Having seen this type of racial tension fuel students’ creativity in the film Freedom Writers, based on actual classroom experiences of Erin Gruwell, Professor Nero showed the movie to students in his English classes. The result was an instant connection: the diverse women and men he was teaching identified with the students in Ms. Gruwell’s class who had shared stories of frustration and pain growing up in racially hostile, violent communities in South Central Los Angeles. Before long, students in Professor Nero’s classes were sharing their own stories, too, writing narratives and engaging in intense conversations in the classroom around race in south Louisiana. The idea caught on like wildfire around the college; other professors similarly challenged their students, and the school’s Creative Writing Club members likewise joined in the effort. Students who had begun the semester in varying states of distress were writing powerful and unforgettable accounts of their shared experiences coming of age in the South. Thus, Voices from the Bayou was born: a collection of heartwarming and heartbreaking narratives told by college students who bravely put it all on the line during a time when our country is most divided, after a contentious presidential election. Their courageous stories of dealing with racism, the police, and the flood in Baton Rouge will leave an indelible impression, reminding readers that our young people are ever watching and their voices must be heard and studied for peace and humanity’s survival. BATON ROUGE COMMUNITY COLLEGE FOUNDATION, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit, has generously aided in the publication of this collection of student narratives. All proceeds from sales of this book will go towards the foundation; in turn, the foundation will help the students who participated in this project continue their education, will assist BRCC faculty with professional development, will facilitate student programming at the college and at literary events for high school students, and will provide scholarship funding for future BRCC students.
"Voices from the Bayou presents complex self-portraits of confusion, courage, and wisdom as young people in a racist society become aware, each in their own ways, of the incomprehensibility, blunt brutality, and deep pain of racism and the depth of love required to change it in the only place they can - in themselves.”
- Gary Zukav, author of The Seat of the Soul and The Dancing Wu Li Masters.
"Creative writing that is designed around meaningful subjects can be amazingly therapeutic for the author as well as for the reader. Therefore, I enjoyed each and every submission of Voices From The Bayou as an open window into the minds, hearts and souls of not just the students at Baton Rouge Community College, but for all of us. How do we all feel about race relations, police brutality and human tragedy in our own communities and around the world? Read, listen, learn and then dare to write an article of your own on a subject that challenges you to be as courageous and as honest as each author included in Voices. This is an awesome and engaging read that cuts to naked the truths of all of us."-New York Times bestselling and NAACP Image Award winning Author and Journalist -- Omar Tyree
"The writers in this volume declare their identities as Baton Rougeans—honest, peaceful, hopeful, authentic people who want more than anything to accept and be accepted by the Other. I am proud and honored to join these real, beautiful voices and I invite you to join me." - Sister Helen Prejean, Author of Dead Man Walking
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