On Saturday, August 18, 2018, a group of youth gathered at Cedarworks in West Philadelphia.
There were food, games, exercises, laughter, fun, conversation, vulnerability, community, and shared experiences. For many of us, there was healing. Join me as I highlight this AMAZING experience and milestone inside of Youth Healers Stand Up! First youth conference.
All participating members gathered in the morning to set up and prepare for the first stage of our event. I’m sure everyone felt a bit of pressure and anxiety. However, I don’t think it could overpower the excitement we felt as we arranged seating and assigned activities to members. “Who’s Here?” was an awesome icebreaker activity that we engaged in. Participants were given a series of statements and if it applied or they could relate, they raised their hands. It was a great way to show and instill solidarity. Youth had the chance to speak out, voice their opinions, goals, and changes that they’d wish to make within housing and criminal justice systems and in the world.
Speakers, headphones, journals, playing cards, and a few other prizes were raffled off after lunch. The best was still yet to come! We had two incredible performances—one by BVD (Bartram Village Divas), and the other by one of our facilitators from Village of Arts, Emyne.
BVD is a group is a group made up of 9 dancers ranging from ages 8-14 years. They are from Bartram Village Affordable Housing Complex and aside from dancing, they showed up and showed out to spread awareness to inform us of the atrocities taking place in their community. Prior to this event, the Healer’s hosted a visioning session which prompted these prodigies to take action and demand their basic human rights. They described what it’s like to receive the short end of the stick of gentrification as young people. After schooling us, the audience, they executed a powerful performance to Ciara’s Level Up.
Emyne, member of Village of Arts and Humanities, is a full time musician. The Village of Arts allows her a professional platform in which she can pursue entrepreneurship and develop her artistry. She performed a verse from one of her songs acapella. The topics touched on young black lives lost such as Mike Brown, Kalief Browder, and Sandra Bland. The gist of her words, to “stay woke” and pay attention to the many forms of undying oppression in America.
Later on in the day, we had an adult session, where we as young leaders talked about ways adults can respect youth and partner together to achieve justice. During this session, the Healers sat on a panel in which we asked the audience questions, but we also got to speak out to a different generation and answer questions. I felt that we truly made an impact on this group’s perspective. There is a great disconnect between generations today due to age obviously, but also technology, mental health, and ways of life. So often we feel heard, but not listened to and this portion of the conference bridged a gap. An alliance was formed.
The day was long, tiresome, yet so fruitful. I left feeling full because my spirit was not fed, but healed in a way that I didn’t even know would come from this event (or know that I needed).
My favorite part was the small “after-party” myself and 3 other members decided to partake in. They were members of Youth Fostering Change. Already gathered in a circle, I overheard these members reciting spoken word and poetry and joined in. We took turns reciting literature and in that, sharing a piece of ourselves with each other that was beneath the surface. It was beautiful and the most healing aspect of the day’s events personally.
Youth Healers Stand Up! has been around for less than a year and we’ve already accomplished so many great things. Making connections, creating a network, safe spaces, raising awareness, all with the objective to heal and make positive impact and change.
Special Thanks to Bare Teeth Collective, The YALC, CedarWorks, YouthBuild and their talented design students, and all of the amazing young people and allies who joined us last year.
HEALers want all youth to have safe, stable Housing. We will Educate about youth homelessness in our communities and beyond and what it's like. We will take Action to bring more housing options for young people. We are Leaders working together towards a better future for young people.