they arrive pulling t-shirts over their heads my compromise with the anti-gang task force colors cannot be displayed with a red t-shirt on red for love red for creation red for blood there are six now   beautiful teens   all in foster care all male  all black   all felons me  an Indian woman red alone the other social workers gone missing   too hard they say too scary they say too painful they say  yes I say we eat sandwiches talk laugh  turn all the lights out but one the shadows rise up this is a secret society of shame boys in care here in the cool dusky evening in a barren conference room high above the city we settle they look to me we agreed to be safe with each other a long time ago to share  grief sorrow fear  how to imagine a dream how to imagine hope  this is sacred space we create art designed to elicit the inner collages of who we think we are collages of who we wish to be hundreds of sheets of giant post-its on walls zen circles we each draw upon entering the moment of leaving the outside world and entering this one can the mind be set free for the body to create for the heart to speak reams of bulletin board paper rolled out on the floor they lay down I trace their bodies they trust me to close their eyes it takes gentle time guided meditation connect to our bodies where the wounds live rolling off the paper charting on the silhouette pain sorrow   rage   fear  where is healing located love hope  forgiveness hang them on the walls me too you too Ms. J they ask me too I say we make Native drums from skins and soft wood donated by a friend we drum our heartbeats we drum freedom they leave the drums with me nothing is safe outside these walls four decades   hundreds of beloved children they are present they go missing they move from placement to placement they show back up they flee to the street they are trafficked   they arrive again they die by their own hands in school parking lots by their parents hands they are returned home   they are adopted I rarely get to say goodbye tonight they ask what do you have for us I ask tell me a lie that has been told to you about yourself that you still believe silence I wait silence nah Ms. J don’t believe any of that bullshit they all agree to agree the air fills with tension silence I read from a list I am not lovable I am stupid I was never wanted it’s my fault I am lazy I am ugly I smell the saltiness of tears before I see them silent streaming one head goes down on the table two heads three all but me straining to keep my head above the drowning I don’t stop  I am not worthy I ruined my mother’s life I ruined my father’s life I am somebody’s bitch someone rises picks up a drum we all rise we begin to drum the room full of vibration enough to drive the darkness out we move to the enormous window overlooking the river shimmering under starlight we drum to the river  we are a wall we are a wall of warriors

—Julie Walls