Healing Through the Arts
As adults, we tend to overlook the fact that we were once young, wild, and carefree; like many of the youth today. The difference, I think, is that we didn’t have social media and the internet like today’s youth do. Today’s youth are informed. They know what they want, need, and aren’t afraid to speak up for what they believe. As adults, we attempt to silence and control them, when we should uplift and empower them. Being from “the hood” and growing up in subpar living conditions, and so much exposure to trauma, many of these youths already have strikes against their odds of succeeding in life. Let’s factor in attending schools that don’t have funding for extracurricular activities such as gym, music, and art; but will put millions of funding in the budget to have police officers and metal detectors. It’s a setup for failure.
Art should be used as a method for healing and self-expression; which most educators aim for. Ironically, the very method that is a possible route for healing is the one that is not prioritized within some schools and youth serving organizations. Eliminating possible routes of emotional release does nothing to support healing and success for students that is so desperately needed. Holistic solutions matter to creative positive youth development professionals because once you start to work with youth, it is impossible to ignore the many challenges they face.
Too many young folks in the inner city stand in need of healthy communities, purposeful relationships, and effective outlets to release frustrations. Art has been used time and time again to direct this population towards healthy forms of self-expression. Something not many of the youth I serve in the Amani neighborhood believe they have access to. A tainted community is not nearly as beneficial as one that encourages disadvantaged youth to succeed. An abusive relationship is not effective for fulfilling a being’s need for love; however, when the relationship is nurturing and individualized, there can be great outcomes for the impacted child. Art in all forms has been proven to be a highly effective intervention strategy to help relieve tension and promote healthy forms of expression and coping.
We need resources. We need youth. We need teaching artists. We need programs that provide exposure and experiences opposite of what these young people live every day. Perhaps most of all, we need connections and influence. Stronger ties, involvement and input from the youth themselves and youth development agencies will help get us there; and will put the arts community in the position of contributing more broadly to the lives of young people. Now is a better time than ever before to bring this to fruition. Let's invest in our youth, they are the now and the future, our lives are in their hands.
“We are all creative, but by the time we are three or four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.” - Maya Angelou
About the Author:
Amanda Clark currently serves as the Youth Organizer for The Dominican Center for Women. She is very passionate about the work she does with youth, especially in the Amani Neighborhood, in which she spent many of her teen years. Amanda's commitment to this community deepened during her service as a Public Ally in the community. As a youth that experienced many of the same hardships, she prides herself on being the person her younger self needed.
If you are interested in connecting with Amanda she can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you are interested in connecting in regards to the work she does in Amani she can be reached via email at email@example.com