My job has an amazing relationship with the Free Arts program in NYC. We’ve volunteered with them twice. The first time, the group was from ages of maybe 6-13. The second time, they were high school age girls & that was really my forte. I looked terrible, wore jeans & a pair of Jays but felt amazing.
         When those girls came in the room, they read each of us up and down. Plainly put, I don’t look like I belong at my job. *shrugs* (But who “belongs” at a job, anyhow lol) I look like… maybe I don’t work there. But through my hard work, not only is that job mine, but I’m valued here for both my work as well as my presence. It’s a reality I’ve grown used to. Diversity is relative. I love being myself and being where I am –even if I’m not a top dog and if no one really looks like me– because I can show girls like me that we can be top dog & that looking like us is ok. As I was growing up, I recall feeling like I didn’t think better existed because I  couldn’t see it. All of my teachers were white. Doctors were white. Lawyers were white. Now, this isn’t to submit this all to a conversation on race, but when that’s the first thing people see, it’s very hard to get passed it. Sometimes, you allow it to hold you back simply by thinking it can. Girls who come from places like where I escaped speak a little tougher. We walk a little meaner and talk a little louder. We’ve seen different things and been different places. Our wars are different, and so is the aftermath. Sometimes, what you need is to see someone like you make it out just so that you know this is a way out. Then, what you need, is for them to show you how to cope if you’ve survived.
      I’m a regular girl… and I was regular with them. I told my partner to keep her head up. To do what makes her happy, but to do it well. To work hard because she has to. To not feel so different. We worked on her Christmas wreath and scarf with my boss, the VP of creative services. I felt it was an amazing opportunity to show this young girl that no matter our ages, races or stories, we were all so regular. The adults there were more afraid of being judged than the kids were. It’s just that, the older you get, the easier it gets to pretend you’re not scared.
      Truth is, I don’t know when I’ll go back to Free Arts. I’m afraid of getting attached. Those girls are me.  Still, that’s the reason I want to go back. That’s the reason I need to go back. Volunteering from the heart is hard. So… when I have time. I’d really like to participate there if I get involved.  The people who run the program are also super friendly, fun and have a good spirit.  If this is the move for you, I encourage you to participate and show these young girls a little bit of light. All they want is to be listened to. To be respected. To sit with someone who wont judge them. That’s why the Free Arts program is so dope. You can learn about these girls without having to hear their stories. You just sit back and appreciate them as individuals. Not case studies. They’re beautiful. At the end of the program, Seven Collective performed and has a group activity to round out the show –the first time was dancing & sharing your talent, the second time we did group poetry. It’s an amazing bonding experience and worth every second to me –and to those girls, I’m sure. One girl even sang for us. It was beautiful. 
If you’re interested in being a mentor or volunteering, please visit FreeArtsNYC.org
They have Saturday programs and others you should check out.
Save our children ❤