Boston Police officer uses art as way for police to work together with kids, teens

BOSTON — Drawing is an escape for 12-year-old Leah Johnson of West Roxbury. The 7th-grader uses it as an outlet to express her emotions and deal with the loneliness that has come with the pandemic and a way to keep busy.

“So I started drawing and stuff and was practicing every single day, every single night. I would be up drawing and it really helped me cope with COVID,” she said.

Leah only started drawing last April but will be showing her work in the Heal Boston Teen Art Exhibit Friday night.

“It showcases some of the things that we’re talking about and some of the issues we’re dealing with in that, using that as a vehicle to do it,” said Officer Emmanuel Dambreville of the Boston Police Department.

Heal Boston was founded a year and a half ago by Officer Dambreville. It’s a grassroots movement that promotes positive relationships between police and kids and teens. It was born out of the fallout from the George Floyd murder.

“With this incident happening I said what can we do to stop the polarization and separation widening what can we do to bring people back together,” said Officer Dambreville.

The art show is called “From Where I Stand.” Each artivist designed a pair of jeans covered in paper machete which depicts different social issues facing communities of color in Boston. They include crime, addiction, poverty, racial profiling, gentrification and more.

Ethan Coakley, a 17-year-old high school senior from Holbrook, focused on police brutality.

“I had the legs kneeling and their ankles crossed in the back because I thought pretty meaningful and I thought that would send people a message,” he said.

Heal Boston is teaming up with another Dorchester-based organization, Saints and Scholars, Inc. for the free art exhibit. It’s 5-8 p.m. Friday at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester.

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