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Cut & Paste: Documentary follows St. Louis teen haunted by death, inspired by new life

Daje Shelton and her high-school boyfriend, Antonio Shumpert, welcome their baby boy, Ahkeem, into the world.
File | Provided | Jeff Truesdell
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By the time Daje Shelton of St. Louis was 17, she’d already lost lots of friends to gun violence. One was shot while waiting at a bus stop, another while walking to the store.

Shelton had few outlets for expressing her grief and coping with emotions about that trauma. In her world, fighting, not talking, was a typical way to address conflict. After one fight, she was expelled from high school.

A documentary film captures her struggle. “For Ahkeem” opens with Shelton in a courtroom, where St. Louis Circuit Judge Jimmie Edwards gives her a last chance to graduate, from St. Louis' Innovative Concept Academy.

The St. Louis court system oversees the unique school, dedicated to the education and rehabilitation of delinquent teens. In our latest Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Shelton and filmmaker Jeff Truesdell about the teenager’s efforts to negotiate school, friends’ deaths and an unexpected pregnancy.

"For Ahkeem" runs through Oct. 19 at 24:1 Cinema.

Cut & Paste Logo 2017

Look for new Cut & Paste (#cutpastestl) podcasts every few weeks on our website. You can also find all previous podcasts focusing on a diverse collection of visual and performing artists, and subscribe to Cut & Paste through this link.

The podcast is sponsored by SPACE Architecture + Design. 

Follow Willis and Nancy on Twitter: @WillisRArnold and @NancyFowlerSTL

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Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.

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