Amplifying Youth Voices, An Ongoing Effort to Aid the Youth of Orange
On Saturday, April 1st Amplifying Youth Voices hosted their 2nd youth-centered forum. The event geared towards an ultimate goal: creating opportunities and a safe space for the future of Orange to prosper.
A.Y.V. like most community work is a collaborative effort. The fairly new initiative grew from the HUUB’s community listening fellowship, discussed at Healthy Orange Coalition meetings members includes: Molly Rose Kaufman, Julie Erickson, and Charlie Wirene.
H.A.N.D.S. community organizer, Dawan Alford, and Orange Prep Academy’s nurse Laura Sacks spearheaded the design, mission, and structure of the various forums.
Our goal is for every forum held every 2-3 or as necessary to host Orange middle-high school students, and a variety of activities focusing on self-expression, asset mapping, civic engagement, community service, and fun!
Following two sessions hosting up to 100 students from Orange Preparatory Academy, and Orange High School. Student groups including BETA Club, Mayors Youth Council, Student Council, Berry’s Butterflies, AFGM (A Few Good Men), and Orange Angels Basketball Group.
This time, we held the event at one of our partners, the HUUB. HUUB is an outreach, community service, and advocacy organization and space at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex County, in Orange, NJ.
Fortunately, A.Y.V. was one of many activities for young people to do in Orange the busy Saturday mixed with location change led to a more intimate setting for Meta Theatre and Orange Speaks! poetry workshop led by Bette Bland. Orange Speaks! is a program affiliate of University of Orange.
The Meta Theatre Company was co-founded by Caroline Hann, Barbara Cannell, and Cyndie Wiggins in 2012. MTC’s process is informed by the work of Paulo Freire, Theatre of the Oppressed, and Dr. Rhea Almeida’s Transformative Family Therapy at The Institute for Family Services in Somerset, NJ. MTC writes and performs plays that show the intersectionality of white privilege, race, class, gender and sexual orientation in the everyday lives of the characters. The play becomes a tool, and invites the audience to look at how the “day to day” life happenings of the characters are connected to larger systems (like the criminal justice system, health care, media, and education) that impacts the “choices” in the character’s lives. Throughout the play, MTC invites the audience to raise their critical thinking, and change the direction of the characters’ choices; formulating action plans that will change the larger systems in their communities.
The Meta Theatre have also participated in other fellowship initiative, Building Solidarity Potluck Series. The ladies performed a monologue about two young girls witnessing their father being racially profiled by the police. It was powerful and exploratory for everyone in the room.
The participants who were a blend of ages, backgrounds, and experiences were asked to share two words that the young girls might have said to each other after the experience. There was a mix of younger and older people taking part. Community leaders and local officials attended, bringing students with them.
This was powerful as we all were learning from each other. Curtis, one of the youth speakers talked about his work with ADAPT. A drug and alcohol awareness and prevention program in Orange, NJ. Another student also shared her desire to start Stop Violence, Stop Bullets after suffering a tragedy caused by senseless gun violence.
Other familiar faces in attendance were Jenny Rodriguez who participated in creating an Orange History Book with the scholar’s program. University of Orange’s Molly Rose Kaufman and Khemani Gibson were leaders in that effort.
Other attendees included CouncilWoman Donna K Williams, Council woman Jamie Summers-Johnson, Reggie Miller and Stephanie Desagnes of Healthy Orange Coalition.
We hope to continue workshopping Amplifying Youth Voices, with future forums and information sessions. While inviting community leaders to speak and provide employment, community services, and volunteer opportunities to cultivate the future of Orange, New Jersey.
Following the series, I was asked to present AYV and some of what we learned from the series as far as how we can reach our young ones. Below is a link to the presentation.
If you are interested in discussing ways to collaborate please feel free to reach out to us! firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Patricia Rogers