Don’t you love a good nap?
Just stealing awaythat small block of time
to curl up on your couch for that sweet moment of escape.
It’s one of my favorite things,
but something I took for granted before I began experiencing homelessness as a teenager.
The ability to take a nap
is only reserved for stability and sureness,
something you can’t find when you’re
carrying everything you own in your book bag
and carefully counting the amount
of time you’re allowed to sit in any given place
before being asked to leave.
I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia,
bouncing from house to house with a loving, close-knit family
as we struggled to find stability
in our finances.
But when my mom temporarilylost herself to mania
and when that mania chose meas its primary scapegoat
through both emotional and physical abuse,
I fled for my safety.
I had come to the conclusion
that homelessness was safer for me
than being at home.
I was 16.
During my homelessness,I joined Atlanta’s 3,300 homeless youth
夜幕降临时 感觉无人关心 被抛弃
in feeling uncared for, left out and invisible each night.
There wasn’t and still is not any place
for a homeless minorto walk off the street
to access a bed.
I realized that most peoplethought of homelessness
as some kind of lazy, drug-inducedsqualor and inconvenience,
but that didn’t represent my
book bag full of clothes and schoolbooks,
or my A+ grade point average.
I would sit on my favorite bench downtown
and watch as the hours passed by until I could sneak
in a few hours of sleep
on couches, in cars,
in buildings or in storage units. I,
like thousands of other homeless youth,
disappeared into the shadows of the city
while the whole world kept spinning
as if nothing at allhad gone terribly wrong.
The invisibility alonealmost completely broke my spirit.
But when I had nothing else,I had the arts,
something that didn’t demand material wealth from me in exchange for refuge.
A few hours of singing, writing poetry
or saving up enough money to disappear
into another world at a play
kept me going and jolting me back to
life when I felt at my lowest.
I would go to church serviceson Wednesday evenings and,
desperate for the reliefthe arts gave me,
I would go a few hours early,
and into a part
of the world where the only thing that mattered
was whether or not I could
hit the right note in the song
I was perfecting that week.
I would sing for hours.
It gave me so much strengthto give myself permission
to just block it all out and sing.
Five years later,I started my organization, ChopArt,
which is a multidisciplinaryarts organization for homeless minors.
ChopArt uses the artsas a tool for trauma recovery
by taking what we knowabout building community
and restoring dignity and applying that to the creative process.
ChopArt is headquarteredin Atlanta, Georgia,
with additional programsin Hyderabad, India, and Accra, Ghana,
and since our start in 2010,
we’ve served over 40,000 teens worldwide.
Our teens take refuge
in the transformativeelements of the arts,
and they depend on the safe space ChopArt provides for them to do that.
An often invisible population uses the
arts to step into their light,
but that journey out of invisibilityis not an easy one.
We have a sibling pair, Jeremy and Kelly,
who have been with our programfor over three years.
They come to the ChopArt classesevery Wednesday evening.
But about a year ago,
Jeremy and Kelly witnessed their mom seize and die right in front of them.
They watched as the paramedicsfailed to revive her.
They cried as their father
signed over temporary custodyto their ChopArt mentor, Erin,
without even allowing them to take an extra pair
of clothes on their way out.
This series of events broke my heart,
但是杰里米和凯莉对 ChopArt 的信仰和决心
but Jeremy and Kelly’s faithand resolve in ChopArt
is what keeps me grounded in this work.
Kelly calling Erin in her lowest moment,
knowing that Erin would dowhatever she could
to make them feel loved and cared for,
is proof to me
that by using the arts as the entry point,
we can heal and buildour homeless youth population.
And we continue to build.
We build with Devin, who became homeless with his family
when his mom had to choose between medical bills or the rent.
He discovered his loveof painting through ChopArt.
We build with Liz,
who has been on the streets most of her teenage years
but turns to music to return to herself
when her traumas feel too heavyfor her young shoulders.
We build for Maria, who uses poetry to heal
after her grandfather died in the van
she’s living inwith the rest of her family.
And so to the youth out thereexperiencing homelessness,
let me tell you, you have the power to build within you.
You have a voice
through the arts that doesn’t judge what you’ve been through.
So never stop fightingto stand in your light
because even in your darkest times,
we see you.