I been locked up since a young one,
Got me in these cuffs, man it ain’t been no fun
Mama say she miss ‘er baby, that just make my nose run
They don’t want me to speak, want me to be Unsung
Lyrics from “Unsung,” written and produced by students at Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility
Six youth at Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility in Grants Pass beat out hundreds of students in correctional facilities nationwide to win a national music competition in honor of Youth Justice Action Month.
The Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS), in partnership with the Campaign for Youth Justice, sponsored the competition, with a theme of “Unsung, the Voices of Youth Justice.” The nationwide initiative was designed to give incarcerated students the opportunity to create and share songs about issues that concern them.
The six youth at Rogue Valley — Zakiyyah C., Edson C., Alfonso K., Anthony L., Michael P., and Beau W. — were advised in their project by Ernst Shadbolt, a group life coordinator at the facility. Like the contest theme, their song was titled “Unsung.”
The Rogue Valley youths’ piece immediately wowed all the judges, said Kat Crawford, director of technology solutions at CEEAS. That included final judge Aloe Blacc, an American musician, songwriter, record producer, and philanthropist.
“The lyrics of ‘Unsung’ will remain with me for a long time,” Blacc wrote. “They are a cry for change. If you like music, if you care about our country’s future, if you want to know what it really feels like to be locked up as a teenager, listen.”
Daniel S., a student at OYA’s Tillamook Youth Correctional Facility, also made the top 10 in the competition for his song, “Choices.” His staff advisor was group life coordinator Dean Sanchez.
You can listen to “Unsung,” plus the other top five winners, in this YouTube playlist.