A Reflection on “The Roses That Grew From Concrete”

When you live in a community where you are statistically more likely to go to prison than to receive a high school diploma, most of your time growing up is not spent thinking about the school to prison pipeline & other forms of systemic oppression.

You are too busy struggling to make something good come out of each day.

I grew up with two constant factors: we moved around a lot within Orange County (mainly within Santa Ana), and money was always tight. My parents, both undocumented at the time, worked day-in and day-out to make ends meet.

I have always strived for a better life, that is something that will never leave me, but along the way I have realized that I have an intense yearning for the betterment of the community that raised me.

Fast forward to August 25th and I see colleges, organizations, resources, artists, and youth, all in the same space conversing with each other.

Connecting, building bridges, inspiring each other. This is what community looks like.

There are three moments that I want to share about that day that I feel have deeply impacted those who were present.

The first was during the community roundtable portion of the event. At the space were influential artists, musicians, young community members, educators, and organizers. Each person gave their introduction and story. From surviving suicide, to finding strength through teaching, each story added to the intimacy & impact of the gathering.

OG Cuicide during the community roundtable sharing his story.
Blimes Brixton.
Educator from Roses In Concrete Community School, Oakland, CA.

As time progressed, so did the amount of creative energy in the room.

The second moment was one that no one could have predicted.

“Let us record an album, right now. Who is with me?” said KRS-One, with enough conviction to convince an entire room to raise their hands.


In one minute, I would find myself on the sidewalk with everyone in the room, walking towards the nearest studio, in disbelief that KRS-One was completely serious in his words.

In two minutes, I would find myself in an overcrowded studio, with all of the musicians, a beat in my eardrums, and a microphone in the corner.

Depicted above, is the third moment. A spontaneous cypher.

The name of this series is taken directly from a lyric that was sung, “I’m Not Your Slave, This Is Freedom”.

Freedom, as defined by my experience that day: the mental capacity to create something that empowers those around it.

The Roses That Grew From Concrete

The following images are from The Roses That Grew From Concrete art, music, & education festival that took place in Downtown Santa Ana on August 25th, 2018.

This event brought together artists, musicians, educators, community youth & elders, and government officials in order to combat the school to prison pipeline.

Using hip-hop, dialogue and art, we created an experience for the youth attendees to connect with a platform that highlighted programs and resources within our community that are actively keeping families together.

Our goals for the event were as follows:

  • To reduce youth violence.
  • To increase school attendance.
  • To inspire youth to attain higher education.
  • To create a school to school pipeline.
  • To prioritize community needs.
KRS-One performing
OG Cuicide during the community roundtable sharing his story.
Allah’s Apprentice speaking during the community roundtable.
Educator from Roses In Concrete Community School, Oakland, CA.
KRS-One inspiring the participants to create a song on the spot.
Mario Chavez, a youth leader, speaks during the community roundtable.