Bokeh Focus Remodeled … Now Bolder & Modern


WELCOME TO BOKEH FOCUS! Youth Photos, Youth Focus: a platform for professional, amateur, and youth photographers to showcase photography and art about youth around the world and juvenile justice in the United States. At Bokeh Focus we love stories – and photographs tell the best stories. We want to hear from our community of photographers and artists in Atlanta and from around the world. Bokeh Focus was created to allow photographers and artists an opportunity to share their work. Our focus is influenced by our sister websites – Youth Today and Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.  We seek photographs and art that portray: […]

Kids Compete, Learn in Juvenile Justice Jeopardy Game


Text and Photos by Ali Sardar Spending a Saturday morning in a classroom is not something most kids want to do. So why did 110 kids between 9 and 17 years old in Lawrenceville, Georgia, do that in mid-May? They received basketball instruction from retired NBA stars and learned how to deal with police, tense situations on the street and about Georgia law playing Juvenile Justice Jeopardy. “Young people are learning about the law, juvenile justice and police … from media, family and friends [and] it’s all wrong,” said Steve O’Reilly, staff attorney for Strategies for Youth, which originated the game […]

Rally Held to Support Jessica Colotl’s Immigration Fight to Keep Dreamer Status


Text and Photos by Ali Sardar ATLANTA — Advocacy groups and protesters rallied this weekend downtown in support of Jessica Colotl, whose Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status was recently revoked. Her story made headlines in 2010 when she faced deportation as a 21-year-old undocumented student after being arrested for driving without a license. Since then Colotl received DACA status, graduated and went to work as a paralegal for Kuck Immigration Partners. Organizations participating Saturday were the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia; the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, which has joined Colotl’s legal team; Asian Americans Advancing Justice; Black Lives […]

Community-based Organization Battles Chronic Absenteeism in Queens


Text and Photos by Becky Holladay “Good morning, Love Bugs, it’s a beautiful day!” Meaghan Holley sang through the door of an apartment. “Psych. It’s actually really gross out. But we still have to get up and go to school!” Holley, a 30-year-old community worker who runs Rockaway Rising, which works with youth and families in Far Rockaway, Queens, personally escorts to school kids who would otherwise be absenteeism statistics.  

Nonprofit Art School Helps Youth Thrive in Skid Row, Los Angeles


Text and Photos by Sean Myers LOS ANGELES — Nestled among nondescript warehouses and infamous streets, Inner-City Arts in downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row is an oasis for artistic growth and self-exploration that serves more than 8,000 students each year. See these creative students in action! Click the photo gallery above. The school provides free classes each day for students in grades K-8 education through a partnership with the L.A. Unified School District and other charter schools. The nonprofit organization also offers after-school and weekend programs for high school students, as well as summer programs for children of all ages. The out-of-school time […]

Young People Protest U.S. Election in New York, Washington, Nationwide


Text by Karen Savage | Photos by Devin Khan NEW YORK — Chants of “not my president” and “love trumps hate” filled the air as thousands of young people stood shoulder to shoulder Wednesday night, filling the blocks around Trump Tower with signs reading: “Trump = Racist Rapist,” “Black Lives Matter,” “She Got More Votes” and “Trump, I’m LGBTQ and I’m not afraid of you.” While Donald Trump’s election victory pointed a spotlight on vast racial, economic and cultural differences across the country, New Yorkers united to show their sadness, shock and anger over Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election. […]

Violence by Police, Against Police Risks Tearing Country Further Apart


Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Karen Savage and Marco Poggio NEW YORK — Gavin Long was not among the peaceful crowds on July 10, the week before he savagely murdered three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers. He was nowhere to be found among the mostly young protesters who gathered to call for justice in the shooting death of Alton Sterling by police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, and for reforms of a department they said was rife with racism. He did not participate in the demonstrations, carry signs, deliver speeches. And that should come as no […]

Searching for a Solution Where ‘Fear and Weapons Meet’


Text and Photos by Rebecca White NEW YORK — “And I soon gathered that being perceived as dangerous is a hazard in itself. I only needed to turn a corner into a dicey situation, or crowd some frightened, armed person in a foyer somewhere, or make an errant move after being pulled over by a policeman. Where fear and weapons meet — and they often do in urban America — there is always the possibility of death.” —Brent Staples, “Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space,” a 1986 essay in Ms. Magazine Brownsville in Brooklyn seems to have […]

Unspoken Truths: Young People in Recovery


Text and Video by Roger Newton Youth Today spoke to six young people July 2 at the 2015 International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous in Atlanta, asking them a series of personal questions about alcoholism and sobriety. To maintain AA’s dedication to anonymity, this video will not show faces or name names. This video was first published on YouthToday.org. Watch the “Recovery Diaries” video series by Roger Newton Watch more videos from JJIE and Youth Today  

Broken Promises, Broken Lives


Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik The mostly black electorate of Baltimore elected a white candidate to be the next mayor in 1999. My editor at The Boston Globe asked me to go find out why. I was walking the derelict blocks of the city when I came upon the answer: a picture fastened to a splintering telephone pole that residents had turned into a makeshift memorial. The picture was of Angus Breen, a grinning teenager, much younger looking than his 14 years, who had been savagely murdered — stabbed to death during a robbery over some […]

A Tale of Two Cities


Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik “Government must focus on the needs of families, must be the protector of neighborhoods and must guard the people from the enormous power of monied interests. Now, my friends, it can be done, but not by elected leaders alone. It requires average New Yorkers who simply refuse to allow their community’s voices to be stifled. It’s their spirit that I intend to sweep into City Hall. A spirit that shouts that all boroughs were created equal and that all our residents matter! So, let’s be honest about where we are today. […]

Young, LGBTQ and Homeless


Text and Photos by Patricia Chourio Mick was 17 when his parents kicked him out of their Minneapolis house for being gay. He spent months couch surfing and sleeping in homeless shelters. Shortly after, he began a serious relationship with an older man and moved in with him. Everything seemed to be going well for a while. He got his GED and even started to take classes at a community college. However, the relationship became so emotionally abusive that Mick developed anorexia and body image issues. He decided to move to Atlanta, where his grandmother offered help and a place […]

Homeless After Class


Text and Photos by Patricia Chourio The third week of the semester at Kennesaw State University, while many students were concerned about parking or trying to avoid long lines to get their books, Jalyn was trying to find a place to live. Nineteen and from Indiana, she was living at an extended-stay hotel until she could find a place she could afford. She and her family have been homeless since the summer of 2012. Until this summer, Jalyn shared an Indiana hotel room with her three brothers and mother. They didn’t own a car, couldn’t afford new clothes and most of the […]

‘Shell Shocked’ Documents Violence in New Orleans


Text by Ellen Kennerly | Photos by Kara Khan It’s easier to get a gun than a textbook in New Orleans, America’s murder capital. ‘Shell-Shocked’ — a movie filled with violence, death and schoolroom chaos — stunned the young Bronx audience in New York. A New Orleans teen pleads “I really do not, do not want to die young! I do not want to stay here because I don’t want to die.” See more photography by Kara Khan Read more coverage on the film “Shell Shocked” at JJIE  

A Funeral in Ferguson


Text by James Pound | Photos by Robert Stolarik A calm returns to Ferguson as the city quietly seeks answers and mourns the loss of Michael Brown, the unarmed teen that was shot and killed by police on August 9, 2014. See more photography by Robert Stolarik Read more coverage on Ferguson at JJIE  

In the Line of Chicago Fire


Text by Katy McCarthy | Photos by Daniel Shea A while back I sat down to listen to a radio special on Chicago public schools and was blown away by what I heard. In a little over an hour, I understood that some kids in Chicago kids didn’t join cliques (think gang but smaller, younger, and less organized crime) but were automatically grouped into cliques based on the block they lived on. I learned that getting a gun was as easy as getting a new pair of sneakers and that organizing something as quintessentially high school as a dance was […]

A Celebration of Peace in a Community Touched By Gun Violence


Text and Photos by Laura Bult NEW YORK — At a children’s summer party last Saturday afternoon at the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway, Penny Wrencher made an introduction between two friends. She knew they would have something in common. “This is Nene,” Wrencher said to Taylonn Murphy, “She lost her daughter, too.” Murphy and Vernell “Nene” Britt smiled, shook hands and looked at each other in recognition. They had both lost charismatic, basketball-playing daughters in shooting feuds. In the summer of 2006, Britt was awakened by a phone call with news that her 18-year-old daughter, Latina “Peanut” Bilbro, had been involved […]

Youth Locked In: Portraits Inside Rhode Island Training School


Text by Katy McCarthy | Photos by AS220 Students, Rhode Island Training School I suppose the primary difference between a bedroom and a cell is the side of the door the lock is on … and the geographical context. Location, location, location, right? In this case it’s the Rhode Island Training School, a juvenile detention facility in Cranston, R.I. Amid the cinderblock walls and standard-issue wooly gray bed linens, intimate details abound. These may be the cells of kids serving time as opposed to time-outs, but they are still the personal spaces of children. In one picture a young man […]

West Harlem Gang Raid


Text by Daryl Khan / Photos by Robert Stolarik NEW YORK — Whenever LaQuint Singleton found himself about to get into a fight out in the courtyards or in the small playground in front of his building at the General Ulysses S. Grant Houses, he would run and find his mom, Venus. He’d scamper up the stairs and go up to her looking for protection. Back then, Singleton was a good student who regularly attended school and attended church service every Sunday. One day, in an attempt to impress the older teenagers and men, he carried a gun to give […]

Police Brutality in the Bronx


Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik UPDATE: ‘Prominent Lawyer Takes Case of Bronx Boy Allegedly Pushed Through Window by Police’ NEW YORK — The 14-year-old boy sat on the stoop of Hookah Stop in the Bronx, blood pouring from his chest and filling his lungs, and thought: This is what it’s like to die. Moments before 11 o’clock Saturday night, the boy, Javier Payne, had been smashed through the store’s plate glass window by a police officer who had stopped him after an altercation with a man on the street, witnesses said. The boy was bleeding critically […]

Bringing Hope and a Camera to Haitian Kids


Text by Katy McCarthy | Photos by Project HOPE Art Youth Participants After finishing up a gardening project in November 2010 in New Orleans’ 9th ward, Melissa Schilling, a photographer with a master’s degree in soil science, found herself looking down the barrel of free time — not something she was used to having. When she came upon an article in the New York Times about response efforts to the devastating earthquake in Haiti earlier that year, something sparked in her. “I thought the most important quote to come out of the article was that this woman felt like she […]

REFLECT: Convicts’ Letters to Their Younger Selves


Text by Katy McCarthy | Photos by Trent Bell Early in 2013, photographer Trent Bell found out that a friend — a father and professional — had been sentenced to 36 years in prison. It was right around the time that Trent’s first child was born and he was forced to wonder — how much of our future is decided by circumstance and how much is due to our own choices? As is the origin of many a creative endeavor, it was from this existential debate that a project was kindled. The plan? To photograph inmates at Maine State Prison […]

The Courts at “Portland’s Projects”


Text by Katy McCarthy | Photos by Elicia Epstein Remember how good it felt to be young with a ball clasped in your hands? How cool it felt to be in the center, shouted at from all sides? Your teammates calling for you to pass to them; the distant piercing trill of your mom whistling at your success… In sport and play, we learn to move our little bodies in conjunction with a team. We experience the joy of collective winning and we practice losing with grace and an eye toward improvement. The court and the field are arenas for […]

Stories of LGBTQ Youth from the Big Easy


Text by Meral Agish | Photos by Kara Khan and Meral Agish NEW YORK — A woman pulls out a letter she has written to her younger self and dedicated to her daughter. The advice is sweet and maternal: You are a beautiful young woman.” But for Milan, the woman reading the letter, the source of her wisdom has an edge. “I’m priceless yet I find myself constantly putting a price tag on my body.” Milan is young, only in her 20s, the daughter she mentions is a teenaged friend whom she mentors. And the advice is based on her experience […]

Execution of a 14-Year-Old


Text by Corey Hutchins | Photos by Sean Rayford This story was also published by the Center for Public Integrity. ALCOLU, S.C.– A few miles off I-95, past acres of brown-and-white fields where blackbirds circle overhead, this small town in the heart of Deep South cotton country isn’t known for much. It has a post office and a few churches, some abandoned houses and some nicer ones, ramshackle trailers and cotton fields. After church on a recent Sunday, George Frierson scuffed his shiny black dress shoe across some gravel at a railroad crossing. Back when he was a kid the rail […]

Battling Meth: A Mother’s Road to Recovery


Collaborative Project by Shaddi Abusaid, Daniela Duron, Elizabeth Keener, Roger Newton and Lindsay Walker Lindsay Curio sits on the porch of her family’s trailer. It’s a crisp, cool November morning, and the leaves on the trees are finally beginning to change color. The morning light shines through the porch screen as Lindsay’s 20-month-old son, Tristen, roams around the porch laughing and dancing as he plays with a cell phone. Tristen is Lindsay’s third child. Her other two children were taken from her by the Department of Family and Children Services. They didn’t think a young woman caught in the throes […]

The Walls Come Crumbling Down


Text by Katy McCarthy | Photos by Andrew Wilkinson It was difficult enough to harness my limited focus in High School with sturdy walls around me. I did my learning at New Technology High, a magnet school in Napa, Calif. that focused on empowering students with 21st-century skills like digital design and programming. Lots of our classrooms were portables, but at least they were solid. At Trenton Central High School in New Jersey, where the ceilings are literally crumbling and the auditorium is condemned, I wonder how anything gets done at all. What is it like to attend high school in […]

The Anonymous People


Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — On a recent grey Saturday morning, a quiet fell over the sparse audience seated in a vocational school assembly hall as Kimberly Beauregard stepped up to the stage. She was introducing the movie to a small audience of three dozen, who had endured a brutally cold morning and a wicked ice storm to come to see. After a few words greeting the crowd and thanking them for their intrepid spirit braving the treacherous conditions to make it to the screening, she praised the movie they were about […]

The Kids for Cash Scandal


Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — After a few beers one evening in the mid-1960s, Mark Ciavarella, in high school at the time and applying the kind of inexplicable logic that experts say is typical of many teens whose brains have not fully developed, conspired to steal a car and go for a joyride with his cousin and a friend. A detective noticed the teenagers suspiciously lingering around the car and pulled over. Ciavarella’s friend and his cousin darted away, but Ciavarella was not so lucky. The detective nabbed him and threw him in […]

Hurting in Harlem


Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik The killing of 18-year-old Tayshana Murphy on an early morning in 2011 has led to a series of retaliatory beatings, stabbings and shootings between the Manhattanville and Grant Houses in Harlem. This historical beef has turned into internecine warfare between the two sides, creating one of the bloodiest and most violent feuds in the city.  Update June 4, 2014: Dozens Arrested in Gang Raid at Harlem Housing Projects NEW YORK — The father of the dead girl takes a look at the brown painted door and shakes his head with contempt. He’s […]