Remembering All the Boys Elvia Bautista was devastated when her younger brother was killed in a gang shooting. Now, she believes in remembering all the victims of gang violence even when doing so may endanger her own safety.
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Remembering All the Boys

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Remembering All the Boys

Remembering All the Boys

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Unidentified Man #1: I believe in the power of love.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe that a generation of young people…

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe it deeply and sincerely.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in the importance of passing this knowledge along.

Unidentified Woman #2: I believe that everyone wants to love and…

Unidentified Man #4: All of these add up to my belief in the dignity of the individual.

Unidentified Man #5: I believe in people.

Unidentified Man #6: This I believe.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

Today, our revival of the 1950s Edward R. Murrow series, THIS I BELIEVE, begins its second year on MORNING EDITION. During the past year we received more than 13,000 essays.

Today's comes from 22-year-old Elvia Bautista of Santa Rosa, California. She's a caregiver for the elderly and mentally handicapped and has been working with a radio group called Voice of Youth.

Independent producer Jay Allison is our series' curator.

JAY ALLISON reporting:

Beliefs are choices. And those choices are never more vivid than in times of crisis.

A year-and-a-half ago, Elvia Bautista's 16-year-old brother was killed by a single bullet to the head in gang violence. As someone tied directly to gang culture herself, Elvia had a choice: to follow a customary belief in revenge, or to find another way to make meaning from her loss.

Here is Elvia Bautista with her essay for THIS I BELIEVE.

Ms. ELVIA BAUTISTA (Essay Contributor): (Reading) “I believe that everyone deserves flowers on their grave. When I go to the cemetery to visit my brother, it makes me sad to see graves just the cold stone and no flowers on them. They look lonely, like nobody loves them.

I believe this is the worst thing in the world - that loneliness, no one to visit you and brush off the dust from your name, and cover you with color. A grave without any flowers looks like the person has been forgotten, and then, what was the point of even living? To be forgotten?

Almost every day, my brother's grave has something new on it. Flowers from me, or candles from the dollar store; or an image of the Virgin Maria; or shot glasses. There's even some little Homies, these little toys that look like gangsters.

Once, my brother's homies even put a bunch of marijuana on there for him. I think my mother took it away. I think she also took away the blue rag someone put there for him one day.

Sometimes when I bring flowers, I fix the flowers on the graves around my brother's grave. Some of the headstones have birthdays around my brother's. They're young, too; but many of them, if they have any little toy or things on them, those are red.

All around my brother are boys who grew up to like red, making them the enemy of my brother. My brother was 16 when he was shot by someone who liked red, who killed him because he liked blue.

When I go to the cemetery, I put flowers on the graves of those boys who liked red, too. Sometimes I go to the cemetery with one of my best friends who had a crush on a boy who liked red, who was killed at 18 by someone who liked blue. And we'll go together and bring a big bunch of flowers, enough for both of these boys, whose families are actually even from the same state in Mexico.

There is no one but me and a few of my friends who go to both graves. Some people think it's bad. Some people think it's heroic. I think they're both being silly. I don't go to try and disrespect some special rule or stop any kind of war. I go because I believe that no matter where you come from or what you believe in, when you die, you want flowers on your grave and people to visit you, and remember you that way.

I am not any kind of traitor or any kind of hero. I am the sister of Rogellio Bautista(ph) and I say his name so you will hear it and be one more person that remembers him. I want everyone to remember all the boys, red and blue, in my cemetery.

When we remember, we put flowers on their graves.

Mr. ALLISON: Elvia Bautista of Santa Rosa, California, with her essay for THIS I BELIEVE.

Elvia's family moved away after her brother's murder. She remained. And with the murder trial ongoing, she makes presentations to members of both the red and blue gangs. She takes her 3-year-old daughter Crystal, because, she says, she melts the toughness.

As we begin our second year of this series, we hope you will consider writing an essay about your personal beliefs, as Elvia did. You can find out more and see all the essays in the series at our website, npr.org.

For THIS I BELIEVE, I'm Jay Allison.

YDSTIE: Next Monday on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, a THIS I BELIEVE essay from New York City Finance Commissioner Martha Stark. She believes in numbers.

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