Erin Gruwell visits BC campus


Jacqueline Gutierrez

Erin Gruwell speaking about the “Freedom Writers” book.

Jacqueline Gutierrez, Reporter

The author of the book “Freedom Writers” visited Bakersfield College and spoke about the challenges her students faced and how she helped them overcome those challenges on Oct. 3. 

Erin Gruwell spoke in the crowded Indoor Theatre that was occupied with high school students, community members, and college students.

Gruwell is an education activist, she is the founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation, and helped change the lives of 150 high school students, according to Premiere Speakers Bureau.      

A few of the audience members went to the speech because they were fans of the book and movie and were inspired by her work. 

“I love the movie, I have watched it several times. I am a retired law enforcement and I worked with the youth and while working with the youth I modeled a lot of what she did,” Joseph Garcia, a Bakersfield College student, said.

During her speech, Gruwell spoke about the “Freedom Writers” movie and how she felt like it was important to hire real people. 

“We interviewed over 1,000 teenagers 14, 15, 16, and 17-year-olds, in fact, the kid that got the lead was living in a car,” Gruwell said. 

Gruwell felt motivated to change the perspective of her students because she realized that they were tired.  

“They were tired. They were tired of being poor. They were tired of being picked on. They were tired of eating that government cheese. They were tired of being touched in places where they knew they weren’t supposed to be touched,” Gruwell said. 

Gruwell explained that once she noticed that her students were tired of the challenges in their everyday lives so she helped her students by using the red line tactic, a method in which she would separate the students and stick a red strip of tape on the floor and she would call out challenges and the students would step on the line if they have faced that challenge. 

“Every one of my kids stood on that line because every single one of my kids was that someone,” Gruwell said. 

During Gruwell’s speech, she introduced a freedom writer, Narada Comans. Gruwell introduced him by calling him a superhero. 

“By writing his story somehow someway he was like a superhero. A superhero without that suit. But a superhero that survived,” Gruwell said. 

Narada spoke to the audience and talked about how the red line game was not a game for him it was real because he lived through it. “Now I’m stuck, I was stuck at a situation to the point [that] it’s like if I hold this in, I’m holding onto the depression, the sadness, the shame. My self-esteem was already low so what do I have to lose if I just stand here? So, I start look to my left there are students there and I look to my right there are other students there,” Comans said. 

Gruwell, Comans, and the other freedom writers came together to write a book, which includes their own stories, to help motivate students who are struggling with their everyday challenges.