Wednesday, November 26, 2008
"The violence is getting really bad at school. All of the teachers say, 'This isn't CHAD anymore; it's chaos.' But you know, Obama said things are going to change so..."
Me: "Do you think Obama being the president will bring change to your school?"
Nathalie: "Well, that's what he said!"
Go for it Obama...
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Today, I go back to the prisons; I carry two things. One, a poem for the juvenile women and two, the funeral papers for one of the juvenile men who's friend got shot two weeks ago. The victim's father and grandmother go to my church. His murder hit our church pretty hard as he was only 15. Both the inmate and I were pretty shocked that we had this boy's death in common. I felt a strong sense of God's presence as he and I talked about his death. It was a unique opportunity for both of us to share something very intimate with a person that is very different. What does a white girl from West Virginia who loves to draw have in common w/ a black guy from West Philly who is locked up for murder? As we worked on drawing portraits of each other and talked about Robert's death, our connection was pretty strong. I'm thankful to God that we met so that I can bring in these pictures of his friend from the outside. The juvenile said, "Two of my boys have been shot since I've been locked up. I feel like I'm hiding from death in here." He's 17.
Here's the poem:
At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
There came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
That, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
Like a low inspiration, do the next thing.
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.
Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering by thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance, be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons, do the next thing.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
And that's just one. We have 19 other great kids, each with their own story, enrolled in the fall courses. One of the things that I go over with the kids in our classes in the beginning is the commitment that we all make to take artistic risks. I love to ask the kids what they think that means... "Doing something dangerous." "Drawing a gun." One of the photography students suggested that it meant "giving it my best shot." Yes. I ask all the kids to commit to doing that while they are in our program and I tell each of them that it is my commitment to them to take the risks involved, artistic and other, in shaping Ayuda's Community Arts Program. We're giving it our best shot.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Creative Work in the Midst of Violence
September has arrived again. We greet the fall excited about what this next year will hold for Ayuda's Community Arts Program. We continue to hold out our collaborative creative work as an important part of what Ayuda (meaning "help" in Spanish) is about. As we have prepared our themes for this year, we have decided to turn our intent gaze into the violence that surrounds us and abides within us. Violence is dangerous territory. Alone, violence has the ability to reduce our lives to a base level existence. Once there, there is one purpose: survival. Our days become two-dimensional where we hide to avoid the intrusion of the violence that exists outside us and we seek distraction to avoid wrestling with the violence we find in ourselves.
The 16th chapter of Ezekiel describes God finding an unwanted child exposed to its environment striving for survival. "No one looked on you with pity or had compassion... rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, as you lay there in your blood I said to you, 'LIVE!'" This allegory continues to describe how God bathes, clothes, adorns, and feeds the child with the finest of foods. This is our God who encounters one discarded and restores worth and beauty.
Ayuda's mission statement speaks of revealing Jesus' restoration: restoring our souls to that Community which created it; restoring the humanity of one person relating to another; restoring voice to our inner search for identity and worth. Ayuda's persistence in doing creative work restores beauty to our community, which lies in danger of operating only from the pale necessity of survival.
"The dichotomy between beauty and necessity has always been a false tension. Yet as a distraction, it has been extremely effective at crippling our power to bring full-bodied, earth-rending change. In our line of work, the task of stoking our vision and constantly imagining possibilities is absolutely essential." - Dee Dee Risher, former editor at The Other Side.
We believe that creative work resists the heaviness of violence and brings about an imaginative engagement with possibilities beyond survival. At Ayuda, we feel brokenness. Our work is to daily choose restoration through that which is beautiful. And we invite you along.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Ronell Davis, 29, was shot in the head and the knee at about 8:30 Saturday night on Franklin Street near Wingohocking, in Hunting Park, police said. Davis was pronounced dead at Temple University Hospital at 9:05 p.m.Walking to church in the morning, I realized it was the same house that recently had the banner of those who have passed from our neighborhood (see past post). The irony was painful. Today, there's a memorial out for Ronell:
It was a quiet day on Wingohocking Street. We decided to go ahead and have dinner with cake and slowly the word got out. Soon after we started eating, the kids called from the front, "Can we come back yet?" So we opened the gate to the backyard and let the flood of children flow in from the block that heard that it was Miss Michaelanne's birthday and there was mention of a cake. When evening came, the heaviness of Ronell's death was so present and there in the midst of it was the joy cries of our kids playing tag and tossing the football. It is really, really complicated... this whole life thing.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
It feels as though I make my way
through massive rock
like a vein of ore
I am so deep inside it
I can't see the path or any distance.
Everything is close
and everything closing in on me
has turned to stone.
Since I still don't know enough about pain,
this terrible darkness makes me small.
If it's you, though -
press down hard on me, break in
that I may know the weight of your hand,
and you, the fullness of my cry.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Sometimes, I forget about the mural and then as I'm walking to Rt. Aid or going up 6th Street to chat w/ the Courtland folks, I'm so struck... WOW. There it is. It's still new to us here in Hunting Park. I suppose we'll get used to it eventually. Come see it!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I really love my neighborhood.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
“The fruit painting was my favorite and it showed a flag and a bird standing on it. That was my favorite part about it.” Jasmine Rene, age 11
“[I liked] the twins when they were sitting down and have all these things connected to each other.” Markita Jones, age 15
“[I liked] the self portrait when she said that she was very ugly and she made her skin ugly with a crack.” Ikeisha Manson, age 12
“The painting Mother and Child, had a mother on a balcony holding a 2 year old boy and the balcony floor breaks which makes the mother and child fall a couple of feet down. But the irony is that he mother and child don’t die or get hurt badly.” Jazmin Lopez, age 16.
"[I liked] the painting with Frida and her husband. It shows that they are together but separated at the same time.” Rafael Gonzalez, age 17
"There was one painting that showed Frida on a hospital bed. She was naked and bleeding. There were certain symbols in the painting that represented her state. She couldn’t have children: broken uterus. She had to go to the hospital numerous times. She was in an accident that seriously changed her life. She was heartbroken.” Alexis Wright-Whitley, age 15
After viewing the exhibit, I asked they kid who thought that Frida was arrogant what he thought. He responded, "She changed my mind about that."
Monday, June 30, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Join Ayuda's Good Works Group and receive more for your generous donations to support the arts at Ayuda. By giving an annual donation, you will receive "Good Works" in return. You can choose the level that you would like to join and we will send you the "goods" listed below.
(Note: 2009 calenders will be shipped in December 2008.)
$20 - Set of 5 notecards featuring images of good works from our youth artists (designs)
$100 - 2 sets of 5 notecards featuring images of good works from our youth artists (designs)
2009 calender featuring images from Community Arts at Ayuda
$500 - 2 sets of 5 notecards featuring images of good works from our youth artists (designs)
2009 calender featuring images from Community Arts at Ayuda
8 X 10 or 8 X 8 unframed photo taken by our youth photographers (choices)
$1000 - All the good works at the $500 level plus:
Your choice of a framed and matted 11 X 14 photo taken by our youth photographers (choices)
a framed printed reproduction of a painting or pastel from our youth artists printed on canvas (choices; sizes indicated)
Most of all, we at Ayuda want you to be connected with the exciting work that we do in Hunting Park. We hope that you'll enjoy choosing a "good work" to receive for your donation as we will celebrate the continuation of the Community Arts Program with your support.
"With the creation of this website, we hope to change our community as well as our world from a birthplace of to a world of peace and harmony."
We sat before a panel of 7 high school students involved in the Student Council as they talked to the audience about why developing this website was important to them. One of the young men gave one reason that he wanted to be proactive against in N. Philly:
"Because when I am an old, old, old, old, old, old, man, I want my great-grandchildren to be able to go to the corner store and be safe."
I felt very fortunate to be there to hear these creative kids talking about their work. Very inspiring. Once you're on the website, click on Media and watch the documentary made by the students in the film classes at E. Academy. (It takes a while to load, but it is really worth it.)
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
(There's a theological joke in there somewhere...)
Regina is the crossing guard at the corner of 6th and Cayuga Streets. As a neighbor, she is devoted to the well-being of our children and of our community. She belongs to the Hunting Park Civic Association and has participated in almost all of our Adult Art Workshops. Read an article written by Regina at the Hunting Park Herald Online. She's just one of those people who really make your day...
Saturday, April 12, 2008
I truly am the worst blogger in the history of blogging. Let's just move on.
Meet Jasmine. Age 12. Most of you may know or have at least heard of her cousin, Daquan (presidential candidate 2032). Jasmine is very quiet. Her aunt lives 2 doors down from Ayuda so her face was familiar to me, but until February, she and I had never spoken. The day I approached her, she was in her usual location on the porch watching the business of Marshall Street after school lets out. "Do you want to take an art class?" She gave just a silent nod in response... but it was an immediate response. Her mother was quick to sign the paperwork and pay the $50 enrollment fee. She said that Jasmine needs something to do. Classes started that week.
The Pastels teacher, Jamie, is a very good friend of mine. She works as an Art Therapist and Ayuda is fortunate to have Jamie volunteering her teaching and prep time to make this class possible. Her insight is invaluable as well. Because we are constantly encountering space challenges at Ayuda, the Pastels class meets in our "common room" on the first floor with the likelihood of frequent interruption and noise from other Ayuda activity. One benefit of this arrangement is that my desk is on the other side of a curtain that is drawn to close off the "classroom" so I get to listen in on the class and hear Jamie and the students' interactions. I rarely hear Jasmine speak. But with each class, she's begun to show her smile more and more. And after class, she and I have begun to know each other a little.
The students in Philadelphia just went through the grueling days of standardized testing. Before they started, Jasmine confided that she was nervous. She said she doesn't do well in math. I asked her what did she most enjoy in school and she quickly responded,"Reading." I asked what was her favorite book and she said she didn't want to tell me and suddenly got very shy. Puzzled, I asked her why she didn't want to tell me and she said, "Because it's old." I told her I liked many old books and finally she whispered "The Secret Garden." Wow... we then had so much fun talking about the book, telling our favorite parts, comparing with the movie, and talking about the musical. Her eyes were so alive. Since that conversation, we have really grown to love each other. Her hugs are long and genuine. One week, she was late for class because of some car trouble that her mom was having. When she arrived, she ran in for a hug and whispered, "I'll never miss a class!"
I'm not making any promises about how consistent I may be, but I would really like to make an effort through this blog to provide regular opportunities for readers to learn about the amazing kids that I am fortunate to work with in Hunting Park. Through this Pastels class, I have really enjoyed getting to know Jasmine. I would like your life to feel the presence of Jasmine's life as she draws the braids in her self-portrait with wild colorful gestures. One evening after class, her mom and I were talking out on the block about how special Jasmine is and she told me that Jasmine talks about the class to her all the time. As I turned that day to go back to Ayuda, I saw Jasmine down the block a ways skipping and skipping, making circles with her braids flying behind her. Creative work does that to us, I suppose.