Starting In Your Own Backyard with Melody Ermachild Chavis

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Children fear for their lives throughout city streets all over our world. Melody Ermachild Chavis suggests better solutions than building more prisons. She reached out to her own battle-scarred, crack-infested neighborhood by holding grieving rituals for those who had died, because, "It's important to honor the dead." Her volunteer gardening project for wayward teens gives them paid work, self-esteem, much-needed attention from adults, and a connection to the Earth and their community. A private investigator who works on trials and appeals for death-row inmates, Chavis knows firsthand that, with help, people can change. It was on death-row that she met Jarvis Masters, who wrote a prize-winning book about his experience. "Jarvis has shown that a reactive, violent young man in a rage from having been separated from his mother at five years old, raised in nine foster homes and then sent to juvenile prison at twelve, could change. And if he can change, we all can change." (hosted by Michael Toms)


Chavis is the author of:

  • Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan: The Martyr Who Founded RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (St. Martin's Griffin 2004)
  • Altars in the Street: A Neighborhood Fights to Survive (Bell Tower 1997)

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How you can help turn things around for troubled youth
  • What is the Strong Roots Gardening for Survival program
  • What is the importance of Chavis' friendship with Jarvis Masters, a man on death row
  • What's happening in American prison systems today
  • What you can do about gun control in your own neighborhood
  • How social activism and Zen Buddhism are connected
Host: Michael Toms       Interview Date: 10/10/1997        Program Number: 2665