Friday, June 25, 2010

Good News: Taking Care of One Another

JJ and his mother, Hermione have arrived home after three months in Richmond, Virginia. JJ underwent heart surgery to replace two severely damaged heart valves related to rheumatic fever that was misdiagnosed last year. JJ was sponsord by the Grenada Heart Foundation and after many months of waiting to see if a hospital overseas would sponsor the operation; he and his mother have returned from a succesful operation and many soulful stories of hope, loss and unity to share. And in the same breathe of a blog i want to shout out more good news with the arrival of Alison's canadian visa a few days ago!!!

Alison is JJ's younger sister and one of the youth leaders in the Village Peace Programs. We have been fund raising for a Alison's journey to Canada so she can take part in cultural immersion program in Nova Scotia. Alison will be involved in a Social Justice Youth Camp in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia; a Youth Leadership Camp in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and spending time on a community oriented, organic farm in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Donations continue to flow in support of this youth empowerment initiative! We are hoping this will be an on-going program that will provide other Grenadian youths like Alison the opportunity to travel, meet new people, build leadership skills, and empower themselves to work for personal and social change upon their return!
Thanks and Praise to everyone for their many blessings, generous donations and global belief in taking care of one another world-wide.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Possibilities Exist

I watch the paths in my life swim, spiral and swan dive into gigantic free flowing circles and I connect the dots reaching deep into memories of my own childhood and the patterns that have led me here today working with youths. I reflect on my own struggle with self; how that self was squashed from a young age even with a belly a full of food, a roof over my head, little fear of being killed, bombed, abandoned, sexually or physically abused. Even with all this I still struggled with my self and getting it right for the outside world; the prescribed world of impossible beauty; the clearly defined gender roles that silenced many of us into walking straight and forever pleasing paths; the confusing messages of consumer needs and religious guilt.

If it wasn’t for the many privileges I was born into opening doors to limitless possibilities enabling me to work with my own barriers to self expression, perhaps I would not have had the courage to explore, discover and exercise the passions that have led me here, engaged in programs that provide safe positive environments where potential can bloom. Unfortunately the programs I am engaged with exist in a not so privileged world (the world of the village) where possibilities are not limitless but limited; where children and adults struggle against all odds to nurture their talents and potential and protect this potential from unjust systems that fight against them day in and day out. Systems such as market place globalization, poverty, racial discrimination, violence, internalized and externalized oppressive attitudes. However, despite all odds, resilience, courage and resourcefulness do exist and there are children and adults who do bloom and break free from the cracks and crevices of concrete attitudes and systems. Reminds me of a line I read the other day on the back of a school bus “possibilities exist”.

In March 2010, six young women and I began a program called Shine: Young Women Discovering Exploring Exercising their Talents. We began meeting weekly and sharing positive, safe and girl-friendly spaces that enabled us to explore, discover and exercise our natural talents and potential. Our first few sessions focused on reclaiming ourselves by exploring positive self images. We discussed the meaning of self confidence, took self esteem quizzes, reflected on our own ability to love ourselves and examined the barriers to self love.

The barriers the young women voiced included judgmental teachers, parents, friends and relatives; negative attitudes they hear over and over from people in authority; feelings of unworthiness and guilt that they believe come from a lack of love in their own lives; and violence in their homes, schools and communities. We confronted these barriers by writing group poems of self love, decorating personal journals with collaged images of beauty and peace. We used art sessions to support our vibrant discussions and reflections and made self aware bracelets, mosaic candle holders out of recycled bottles and tissue paper, and painted candles (most of the paint ended up on our toes, fingers elbows and cheeks).
In last week’s session we watched the movie, Mad Hot Ballroom. An inspiring movie about kids coming from high risk immigrant families who first came to United States to find a better life for their kids but found the ghettos of New York instead. The film portrayed opportunities for children to find their potential through learning the discipline of Latin Dancing and in return important life skills. The kids learned how to work cooperatively with their peers, how to be in healthy relationships on and off the dance floor, how to respect their team mates and dancing partners, how to stand tall and proud while looking their partners in the eyes, and how to make positive choices that can lead to other possibilities. One of the dance teachers defined success as “finding what you love to do the most and doing it the best you can”. After the movie the girls and I talked about finding what we love to do the best and finding opportunities to succeed even amongst all the barriers.

Exploring discovering exercising the possibilities for success is much easier for some of us especially where privilege exists in every corner. Not so easy when privilege is a distant cousin waving from the shoreline and self confidence your only chance to swim across. I find hope in the young women of Harford village, who against all odds, find themselves searching and finding small spaces of possibility and simply (and not so simply) showing up.