I know, I know... 4 months!
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.