Urban Youth

Youth in Seattle with a Freechild Project summer camp

Living in a place shouldn’t condemn a person to poor health, weak education, unsafe living conditions or segregation from other races, socio-economic classes and religions. However, in cities around the world urban youth face countless barriers to successful lives. Experience and research shows that these same young people are engaged in substantive activities focused on changing the world, they become empowered, wise and transformative leaders. Urban youth can transform the lives of younger people, their peers, adults and elders living among them and throughout their cities.

There’s no reason why children in inner cities or rural areas do not receive the same quality education or opportunities as those in suburbs or wealthy neighborhoods. If we truly believe in giving all citizens a chance to pursue happiness and pursue their goals, then we cannot continue to marginalize entire groups of people. — Al Sharpton

 

Ways Urban Youth are Changing the World

Youth Leadership — When urban youth are needed to fill in gaps, or where adults refuse the power of youth, youth leadership can be a substantive tool for communities. Building skills sets like communication, problem-solving, change management and peaceful negotiations, urban youth leadership programs, activities and organizations can be beacons of hope.

Youth as Mentors — Providing positive, intentional role models is an important task urban youth can excel through. Whether mentoring with younger children or adults, young people can build trust, mutual investment, and meaningful interactions into the daily lives of their mentees, and learn from them, too.

Youth Media Makers — Learning how to make media that reflects their communities’ true realities without sensationalizing, glorifying or otherwise manipulating circumstances, urban youth media makers can change the world. Its vital to use the media popular within a community to reach that community and beyond, whether on the Internet, through video or print, or via texting.

 

"Precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience you must find yourself at war with your society." - James Baldwin

 

Things Urban Youth Need to Change the World

Education — Education in cities should focus on developing a strong commitment within children and youth to transforming their urban communities from within, and changing the entire world. They should learn about urban transformation, economic development, cultural enrichment, community building and youth-led activism.

Funding — Urban youth deserve every opportunity to build their communities, progress their lives and build social justice simply because they live in cities. However, simply because they live in cities they often don’t have access to the fiscal resources of other young people. Foundations, government agencies and other funders should provide specific, sustained and substantial funding opportunities for urban young people to change the world.

Inspiration —  Living in poverty, struggling with family / gender / gang violence, and experiencing daily discrimination and fighting community depression can challenge the strongest people. Children and youth face the outcomes far more than adults. Inspiration and motivation for understanding they can change  the world in positive ways; have meaningful, positive effects on their communities; and see relevant outcomes that affect their lives and their families can be absolutely essential.

 

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Youth and Racism

Freechild Project youth protest in Seattle

Youth and racism are wound together, depending on each other to unravel the pain, hurt and despicable enduring nature of racism. Being “against racism” is to be against any system based on some kind of supremacy, including white supremacy, racial supremacy of any kind, tribal supremacy, class supremacy, even male and female chauvinism. Young people are taking power action against racism and making their communities more powerful, empowering places for all people to live in.

Washing ones hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. — Paulo Freire

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World focusing on Racism

Youth-Led Activism — When adults won’t partner with young people or when young people want to take immediate action without permission, they can lead their own community organizing projects and rallying their peers to create change, or take action on their own. Picketing, sit-ins, boycotts and social media action are just some of the ways youth-led activism can affect racism.

Service Learning — Studying the social effects of racism, young people are building communities through service learning. Programs focused on white privilege, empowering communities of color and more can teach students about racism in distinctly effective ways. When facilitated effectively, service learning encourages students to apply their learning throughout their lives.

Youth and Incarceration — Young people are challenging the school-to-prison pipeline, long-term incarceration, incarcerating youth with adults, and solitary confinement within prisons, all wrapped together with analysis focused on the disproportionate incarceration of people of color. Youth and incarceration shouldn’t be synonymous, and youth can change the world when they focus on ending the racism which makes this happen.

 

The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide by Adam Fletcher
Order The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World focusing on Racism

Education — Learning about the history of racism isn’t enough. Young people need to understand their role in white privilege and racism, whether they’re people of color or white. Learning how to see privilege, dismantle white supremacy, overcome structural racism and fight against dominant cultural norms is essential, too.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Creating intentional relationships designed to foster trust, communication, mutual investment and meaningful involvement can effectively engage youth in changing the world focused on racism. Young people can transform communities and organizations through youth/adult partnerships, increasing effective action and building support along the way.

Opportunities — Young people need substantive opportunities to take action against racism. Schools, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations can create opportunities. Young people can create their own opportunities through youth-led community organizing and youth-led programs, too.

 

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Youth and Public Health

Seattle students in a Freechild workshop discuss issues with an adult ally

Public health is made of organized efforts around the world that aim at to prevent disease and promote health across our communities. Tied together through education, action, evaluation and advocacy, youth and public health are addressing a lot of issues, including HIV/AIDs, smoking, pregnancy prevention, and more.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito. — Source unknown

 

Ways Youth can Change the World focusing on Public Health

Youth as Teachers — Young people can be some of the best public health educators, whether teaching their parents, their siblings, other young people or adults throughout their communities. Engaging youth as teachers can quickly normalize activities, knowledge and attitudes that are different or new for their communities in ways adults cannot, and can reach people others can’t, either.

Social Media — Texting public health messages and sharing public health knowledge with their peers and other throughout social media can help youth be powerful communicators and recruiters. Social media can also help youth educators build community around their issues, roles and regions, too.

Youth-Led Activism — When adults won’t listen to youth voice or allow youth participation, young people can make their voices heard through activism. Whether they are organizing communities, leading sit-ins, advocating for policy change or building online movements, young people can be powerful activists for issues that matter to them.

 

The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!
The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World focusing on Public Health

Education — Young people should know the basic, elemental parts of public health all of the time, no matter who they are, where they live or how much money their families and communities have. However, to change the world with public health, children and youth should learn critical thinking skills, build their knowledge base, and expand their abilities.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Working with adults as partners is a sure way to change the world through public health. Young people can teach adults about issues that matter while receiving the support, encouragement and knowledge of adults.

Funding — Securing and sustaining funding is vital for youth-led public health action. Changing the world through active engagement in the issues that affect them most, children and youth deserve the fiscal support they need for programs, activities and outcomes that reflect the importance of public health throughout our lives and communities.

 

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Youth Participation + Social Change

Youth activism expert Yve Susskind taught Freechild that youth participation was something young people can do on their own. Adults can involve youth, they can engage youth, but they cannot participate youth. Youth participation can happen through sports, schools, faith communities, and throughout communities. It can also happen in homes and among friends. Youth participation can be formal or informal; when its formal, youth may not choose to attend something, but they choose whether to participate. When its informal, youth choose to join in on something.

Ways Youth Can Change the World through Youth Participation

Youth as Recruiters — Young people can be the greatest peer advocates and community builders. Choosing activities and issues they are passionate about gives children and youth immediate investment in a program; allowing them to connect with people they want on board gives them the opportunities they need to influence people. Youth participation in recruiting can lead to the greatest outcomes for every project or program.

Social Media — Using technology they are comfortable with allows children and youth to assume influence, motivate others and propel social movements forward. Social media in all its forms answers this call, giving young people a doorway into participating in vast global conversations, and opening doorways to action offline, too.

Youth Authors — Young people can participate in social change through writing. Whether they are developing ebooks for young audiences online, writing articles in the local newspaper, or using texts to blast out messages to their friends and families, young authors can participate in social change in active, meaningful ways.

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Youth Participation

Opportunities — Often denied access to become meaningful participants in their own lives, children and youth need opportunities to participate. Whether happening at home, in nonprofits or local government, through school or in national organizations, youth participation can require door openings.

Inspiration — The inspiration to become active in their own lives escapes many young people who have been historically denied that right. Inspiring these children and youth can lead to substantive, impacting youth participation throughout communities.

Education — Once youth participation happens, its important to introduce and expand the knowledge, power and abilities of young people. Providing skill-building training and facilitating knowledge-sharing activities are key to improving youth participation.

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  • Youth Participation in Community Planning by Ramona Mullahey, Yve Susskind and Barry Checkoway for the American Planning Association
  • Youth participation” by United Nations Youth
  • Youth Participation Guide: Assessment, Planning, and Implementation” by YouthNet and Family Health International for Advocates for Youth
  • Community Club Toolkit  – Designed for sports clubs, community groups, youth centres or anyone trying to organise community events, sports activities or structured programs for informal groups and young people. A free resource with lots of ‘how to’ hints and useful templates to save your club time when: running meetings; helping club volunteers and members; engaging youth in decision making; membership (succession) planning; and running the day to day jobs within a community committee.

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A Review of Making Space – Making Change

Making Spaces Making Change by the Young Wisdom Project of the Movement Strategy Project

Responding to a crisis is not easy work. People who spend day in and out working for the good of other people are often taxed to the extremes: selflessness and empathy override their commitment to themselves.

That is why it is so rare to capture a succinct yet powerful overview of youth activism today: democracy is in crisis mode, and those who are struggling for its life are being pushed to the extremes. That is why Making Space – Making Change is the most important document focusing on young people and social change to come out in recent times.

This new publication from the Movement Strategy Center in Oakland profiles five youth-led and youth-driven organizations from across the U.S. It provides insightful details on how these organizations started, how they build youth leadership and power, deal with challenges, and how they make real change in their communities.

For readers of Paulo Freire, bell hooks, Peter McLaren, and other critical educators, there are many familiar points- but with an important focus on social change led by young people. Early in the introduction to youth-led action, the authors state,

“Instead of approaching the question of youth-led organizations as an either/or situation, it’s helpful to think about youth leadership and governance as a continuum with a spectrum of possibilities – something that can develop and change over time.” (p 15)

 

This echoes bell hooks recent book, Teaching for Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, where hooks extols readers to look beyond either/or and towards with/and. The authors of this report provide an important bridge to many critical thinkers, applying much-needed theory to the powerful, practical work of youth activists.

Rather than simply providing another toolkit, this report allows the details to tell the stories. The feature on the Lummi CEDAR Project, as all of the stories, paints a vivid portrait of a community responding to the dilemma of keeping cultural pride and community alive by engaging youth. This project highlights the power of belonging and identity, a trait that consumerist culture increasingly denies to many young people. As in other stories, the report is frank about the challenges facing the CEDAR Project: Creating a youth-led structure for an indigenous context; adapting organizational development models; and creating a culturally relevant youth organizing model in a rural Native community.

However, the summaries are always hopeful – realistic, for sure – but hopeful. As one of the youth directors said,

“It’s really awesome to me because our community is a small tribal community, and we have eighty young people trained now. So we have a broad network living a healthy lifestyle, caring about their community, inspired, motivated, and have this drive to make a positive change in their community. And that impacts their family… We’re just building a collective movement…” (p 41)

 

Making Space – Making Change is an important tool for young people and adults allies who are ready to put their principles into practice. It is a more important tool in the growing library of publications that support young people leading social change. Important analysis, detailed findings, and powerful personal connections can only promote a stronger, more effective future for social change led by and with young people. Thank you to the Young Wisdom Project – we’re all moving forward because of your work.

 

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Youth Engagement in Incarceration

Buffalo Save the Kids youth hip hop program participant

Corporations and politicians who hype crime and demonize young people stand to gain a lot of money, power and influence by building and operating prisons that lock up young people. Youth and incarceration are woven into politics, economics, discrimination and abuse by many people and systems, including schools, law enforcement, courts, prisons, and politicians. When young people become engaged in challenging youth incarceration, they can change the world in many ways.

Our youth are not failing the system; the system is failing our youth. Ironically, the very youth who are being treated the worst are the young people who are going to lead us out of this nightmare. – Rachel Jackson

[Prison] relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism. — Angela Davis

 

Ways Youth Engagement Can Happen In Incarceration

Community Organizing — Working together with youth, children and adults, youth community organizers can confront and challenge the school-to-prison pipeline and the prison industrial complex in several ways. Traditionally, physical presence like picketing, blockades and sit-ins were used to produce results. Today, in addition to those ways, youth organizers are also using social media, youth Participatory Action Research, policy advocacy, hip hop, and other actions to organize communities to challenge the incarceration nation.

Youth as Politicians — Working within the political system, youth government representatives are challenging juvenile injustice in a variety of ways. Youth as politicians are working with state legislators, they are forwarding legislation focused on legal reforms; working with school boards, they are challenging school policies to adopt restorative justice practices. Much more is happening, too.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Building intentional relationships focused on mutual respect, trust, communication and meaningful involvement, young people and adults are working together to defeat juvenile injustice. Advocating to political bodies; educating communities including children, youth and adults; and raising public awareness of juvenile injustice, youth/adult partnerships today have succeeded in transforming personal attitudes, shared cultures and organizational structures.

 

Tools for Youth Engagement in Incarceration

Opportunities — Organizations, programs and individuals can support youth engagement in challenging incarceration by creating opportunities for reflection, critical thinking, and deliberate action. Youth programs can focus on a variety of actions to challenge incarceration, including service learning, Participatory Action Research, and community building activities, as well as community organizing, intergenerational partnerships, and mentoring.

Education — Teaching young people can challenge incarceration. Lessons can focus on education against incarceration; learning about social, political, economic, legal and justice systems and their effects on families and communities; or other topics that affect juvenile injustice. Education activities can also center on culture, heritage and history; life skills; and other issues that are relevant to learners as they apply to stopping juvenile injustice.

Personal Development — Having substantive opportunities to create the life they want to live is essential to challenging the cycle of juvenile injustice. Partly focusing on defeating consumerism, personal development can include formal education, informal education, homeschooling, life skills development, understanding family and community dynamics, or other issues young people can learn how to live a life they love.

 


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Youth, Parents, Parenting and Families

Society changes for a lot of reasons, and the outcomes of those changes. Family structures have been better and worse, good and bad and otherwise. Youth, parents, parenting and families are real issues that intermingle and relate to each other. Young people change the world in positive, fair and healthy ways when they understand parents, parenting and family for themselves.

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World Focusing on Parenting and Families

Positive Parenting — Learning what parenting is, what it is not, why it matters and how it can be successful is a powerful tool for young parents. When this education is focused on positive parenting practices, including teaching children, engaging families and transforming communities, young parents can change the world.

Youth as Parenting Educators — Engaging young parents as educators can be an effective, engaging way to change the world. Young parent teachers can speak practically to the realities, challenges and opportunities that exist for other young parents.

Youth/Parent Partnerships — Traditional family relationships are hierarchical, with subvert and explicit suggestions that parents always know best and children should always be subservient. Youth/parent partnerships allow for trust, communication, meaningful involvement and real investment to be at the forefront of households, allowing for transformative relationships between parents and their offspring.

 

Courage, dear heart. - C. E. Lewis

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World Focusing on Parenting and Families

Inspiration — Young parents and youth in general can benefit from honest, open inspiration that means to motivate them to action to change the world. Stories, incentives and cultures that engage these young people can be the most inspirational tools, but there are many other ways to inspire, too.

Mentoring — Creating healthy, engaging relationships among young parents and older parents can foster healthy communities, empowered children and meaningful opportunities for everyone involved to affect one another.

Education — Creating real opportunities for young people to learn about parenting and their parents through education can transform communities and change the world in countless ways. Children and youth can learn how economics, education, social class, healthcare and other affects on families, and how social change can benefit everyone.

 

Discover our Youth/Adult Partnerships Tip Sheet at https://freechild.org/yaptips/
Discover our Youth/Adult Partnerships Tip Sheet!

 

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Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1517641233/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1517641233&linkCode=as2&tag=thefreechildp-20&linkId=43XBKODOPHWZ46XW
Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

Youth and Homelessness

Freechild Project youth in a forum on homelessness in Olympia, Washington

There is definitely something wrong with an adult-driven society where economics, politics and culture allow children and youth to be homeless, hungry, unsafe and unwelcomed. There are two main ways that youth and homelessness interact, and those are through experience and action.

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World Focused on Homelessness

Homeless Youth Solving Homelessness — When young people experience homelessness, it can be healing, healthy and empowering to be engaged as part of the solution instead of simply being a problem. Addressing their circumstances through research, planning, facilitation, advocacy and reflection, homeless youth can transform the circumstances they and others are in while moving their communities’ perceptions in positive ways, too.

Youth as Mentors — Through trust-building, collective action and intentional communication, young people on the streets can form positive, empowering relationships with adults in their communities. Mutually beneficial conversations and interactions can increase the interest, ability and sustainability of homeless youth transforming their own lives.

Servant Leadership — Feeling they want to serve and be of service to their communities can drive youth to take action in meaningful ways that impact their lives and the lives of others. Servant leadership can allow homeless youth to raise the health and well-being of their communities by leading their peers, families and others to take action to improve everyone’s conditions throughout their communities.

 

Ephebiphobia is the fear of youth. The Freechild Project
Learn about the fear of youth!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World Focusing on Homelessness

Training — Creating interactive, engaging learning opportunities in non-threatening, non-heirarchial ways can help transform the thinking, feelings, attitudes and actions of learners, whether adults or youth. Training homeless youth in skills and knowledge that can benefit them can be transformative. Topics and issues to address should come from youth themselves.

Technology — Providing access and validating homeless youths’ access to technology can be a powerful tool for social change. Building their own abilities to utilize and maximize the Internet, texting, social media and other tools can be very engaging and empowering.

Access —  Homelessness is the absence of access. Even if a person is given access to become housed and fed, they might still be homeless because they don’t have access to healthcare or economic opportunities. Access is an essential tool for social change.

 

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Youth and Poverty

Poverty means having very little money, wealth or possessions. Poverty can also include having limited educational, political, social, cultural and physical power. The reality of youth and poverty is that many young people around the world face poverty, and other young people want to do something to help people facing poverty. Children and youth addressing their own poverty are actively changing the world; young people who are trying to help others experiencing poverty can change the world, too.

Poverty reduction is not only about meeting our basic needs, it’s also about participation, influence and power. — Hanna Hallin

Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings. — Nelson Mandela

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World through Challenging Poverty

Youth as Producers — Instead of waiting for other people to make things for them, young people can produce things for themselves, their families and their communities. Learning how to grow food, make healthy meals, build things, develop websites, sell online and other production can allow children and youth to defeat poverty. It can also change society’s perceptions.

Critical consumerism — Making intentional choices to support the end of poverty can mean shopping local, buying fair trade items, and bartering or trading others. Children and youth can do these things on a large scale, influencing local economies, their families and others by raising consciousness among their friends, younger people and adults.

Youth-Led Programming — When children and youth have opportunities to create and support themselves, their peers, young people, their families and their communities, they develop the abilities they need within them to challenge poverty. Youth-led programs can provide the positively enabling conditions young people need in order to act on their own behalf and for others. This can allow them to overcome poverty.

 

Tools for Change

Opportunities — Children and youth who grow up in poverty can often feel the burden of community depression and the oppression of social stigmas. Creating meaningful opportunities for them to engage with poverty in a critical light can be essential to engaging, empowering and compelling them towards helping themselves and others, too.

Technology — While technology of any kind is not an immediate fix for poverty, it can be a powerful tool. When young people have access to the Internet, they can find information they need in order to become critical consumers and education that can lift them out of poverty. They can also learn how their cultures, heritage and backgrounds can be empowering, and without running away from where they are at, they can learn to improve life for their communities.

Education — Few young people actually learn what economics are and how they are affected while they are young. Instead, they are treated as passive recipients of a large system they cannot challenge. Education about economics, from practical budgeting and getting paid to higher concepts about national economies and globalization, can help children and youth discover active, engaged and effective roles for themselves throughout society.

 

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Youth and Hip Hop

Buffalo Save the Kids youth hip hop program participant

Hip hop is a global cultural communication style including the pillars of music, art and dance. Born in urban American environments, the arts of DJing, MCing, graffiti, breakdancing, slam poetry, beatbox and beatmaking have become worldwide ways young people and adults use to express their thoughts, feelings, ideas, values, knowledge and wisdom in urban, rural, suburban and other environments. Today, youth and hip hop are tied up together around the world as an avenue for social change that can build power, ability and inspiration. According to Save the Kids, a Buffalo New York youth hip hop activism program, youth who are engaged in hip hop activism take four tactics:

  1. Reclaiming place through breakdancing
  2. Expressing themselves through graffiti
  3. Making noise and beats with DJing
  4. Speaking out through Emceeing.

 

Activism, attackin’ the system, the blacks and latins in prison Numbers of prison they victim lackin’ in the vision… Sh– and all they got is rappin to listen to… ―  Talib Kweli in Get By

Hip Hop Generation captures the collective hopes and nightmares, ambitions and failures of those who would otherwise be described as “post-this” or “post-that.”
― Jeff Chain in Can’t Stop Won’t Stop A History of the Hip-Hop Generation

 

Ways Youth can Change the World Through Hip Hop

Youth as Artists — Creating and sharing hip hop culture focused on changing the world is a powerful way young people can make a difference. Organizing other youth through hip hop, using hip hop to share powerful messages and building the hip hop movement are all important actions for youth as artists.

Youth as Teachers — Young people can learn the skills needed to be effective teachers, facilitators and leaders who use hip hop to educate people, and to educate people about hip hop. Engaging youth as teachers can allow communities of learners to flourish. As a culture, hip hop can allow learners to become more engaged in more ways that mean more to them; as a topic, hip hop can be hyper-relevant and empowering to study.

Community Organizing — Hip hop youth activism is an empowering approach to advocacy, education and empowerment. Young people can use the elements of hip hop to advocate for the issues that matter most to them and their communities while bridging generations and cultures. This approach can energize and activate other people to become organizers, too.

Music Making — The act of creating conscious hip hop can be empowering, engaging and enlightening to children and youth as well as adults. Hip hop music can teach people about the politics that affect them, the cultures they are part of and the other elements of society they live in, and engaging young people in music making can be a powerful way to encourage that to happen.

 

IMG_7971

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Hip Hop

Opportunities — One of the most powerful parts of hip hop is that young people can engage in its many elements without seeking permission from adults. However, when adults are allies with youth, they can foster hip hop throughout communities. More than simply playing a song, hip hop can be a spine for teaching, empowering, engaging and immersing children and youth in the realities of society. Nonprofits, schools, families and communities can all create avenues for that to happen.

Technology — Hip hop can be hold an organic, natural basis that centers on poetry, art, dance and emotion. It can also be moved along through tech-driven, synthetic ways that infuse electronic beats, voice modification and computerized instrumentals into all aspects of the culture. Providing access to technology can allow young people to choose whether they are organic or synthetic, or some mix of both. Tech can also allow children and youth to share hip hop culture globally, too.

Exposure — Hip hop is worldwide today. People speaking every language in almost every nation attach to some part of hip hop, creating, consuming and promoting social change at every turn. Exposure to diverse hip hop can engage young people in transnational, globalized culture without ever leaving their community, allowing them to infuse worldwide perspectives into places where people can’t or don’t ever leave.

 

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