By the time she was posing for pictures on the stage of a Hyatt Regency Washington ballroom just blocks from the Capitol with two teenagers with oversized black hoodies that had the words “We Are Not Gang Members” emblazoned on them, the Trump appointee to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention had done a lot of explaining.
Mariah Charles woke up on Tuesday faced with a difficult decision. Does she take a plea to a crime she didn’t commit or go to trial — face the two officers who slammed her to the ground, arresting her on her way to school — and risk losing.
It’s lunchtime on a recent Wednesday at Venice High School. Twenty or so students are sitting at their desks with full plates of food looking up at the teacher. No one is looking at their phones. They listen attentively to the man up front, who is giving them a writing prompt.
Doniesha Thomas is in her bedroom, crouching on the floor and peering into a pet carrier that appears empty. “He’s in there, all the way back,” she said, reaching in to find the kitten she rescued from a nearby vacant lot the day before, though she says she dislikes cats.
It’s early evening on a warm Tuesday in March, and a handful of teenagers are commanding rapt attention in a corner of a Chelsea art gallery. They’ve just performed a short theater piece of their own devising, an exploration of gun violence and the twisting, ricocheting trajectory that one bullet can follow through a community.