Last Thursday, in front of an intimate group of community members, John Muir graduate Noah Griffin accepted the $7500 inaugural Anthony McClain Social Justice Scholarship. Griffin will attend Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the Fall.
Funding for the scholarship came from the proceeds and donations from the documentary film “Thorns on the Rose: Black Abuse, Corruption & the Pasadena Police.”
“I pray that my son turns out to be half of who you have become,” said Dr. Lawton Gray, principal of Muir. Griffin maintained a 4.0 GPA for most of his academic tenure as a Mustang.
During Griffin’s acceptance remarks, he questioned his worthiness and seemed to understand the responsibility in his 17 young years. In his essay, Griffin wrote that being a young, Black male in Pasadena, the film “hit home” and “ultimately grounded” him.
“Having the opportunity to apply for this scholarship represents a responsibility to move forward and realize dreams that Anthony McClain may have had that he cannot achieve now,” Griffin wrote in his essay. “That was taken away from him. In a blink of an eye, many of us can be in his shoes.”
“I also know I represent the hopes and dreams of my community,” he wrote. “Watching the film was a very traumatic and troubling experience. Seeing people in the film who I have interacted with and see around Pasadena on a daily basis really struck a chord. Hearing the pain and frustration in their voices while they spoke was very difficult to watch. I was so bothered by the film it inhibited physical responses from me.”
Griffin wrote that the film reminded him of “why I started doing grass-roots social justice work with the Ignite Youth Rights & Responsibilities program in the first place; which is based here in Pasadena and geared towards youth in Pasadena. The lost lives of beloved and respected black people like Michael Bryant, Kendrec McDade, Reginald Thomas, and Anthony McClain should not be regarded as stories of the past, but as souls propelling the fight for justice.”
Griffin is a co-designer of the Ignite Youth program, which aims to prevent violence in the community and is sponsored by the Pasadena/Altadena Coalition of Transformative Leaders. The program teaches conflict resolution skills to local youth across PUSD.
“In Ignite Youth one of our main goals is to inform youth of their rights so they are able to effectively communicate with the police,” Griffin wrote. “Through teaching youth their rights we empower them with the knowledge that puts the police on a more level playing field. Two important rights are the right to remain silent and the ability to not consent to searches. We also work on effective communication, and mindfulness of our demeanors in police interactions in hopes of better outcomes.”
Griffin said he plans to start a chapter of Ignite Youth in college in addition to continuing to represent the Pasadena community “wherever I end up.”
The $7,500 cash award created by Dennis Haywood, director of “Thorns on the Rose: Black Abuse, Corruption & the Pasadena Police.” Haywood also serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the Pasadena Black Pages. The scholarship resulted from the community standing in the gap, serving as a bridge and lighting a pathway. Haywood desired to take the tragic homicide of Bro. McClain and have a positive impact.
Rochele Jones and James Farr produced the film.
The afternoon was full of joy and hope. But, it was also a day to remember the loss of Mr. McClain. His son Brice was there with his mother, Kim and Aunt Ebony. Each speaker spoke to the family and decried that the name #AnthonyMcClain would not be forgotten.
The award was presented to Griffin on June 3 in front of La Pintoresca Library. In attendance were Pasadena City Council member Tyron Hampton, Pasadena Unified School District Board member Michelle Richardson Bailey, Muir principal Dr. Lawton Gray and James Farr, who presented and made remarks on behalf of the film.
The painful circumstances that made this day possible were not glossed over. We were just a mere few feet from where McClain’s bled out, and where his body and life were stolen away from his children and community. And, now Griffin is are a part of McClain’s legacy. Griffin understood that he has a responsibility to himself and the community.
Just before I awarded Griffin with the ceremonial check, I admonished the future Mountain Hawk with a quote from Pasadena’s very own Octavia Butler -- "All that you touch you change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God Is Change." Handing him the check with the only condition that returns to Pasadena and to be GREAT.
Justin Chapman Contributed to this article.