• SH

BCJC Open House

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of sharing in the Brownsville Community Justice Center's big annual Open House event. It was a big event: a DJ, flowers, some great local catering, etc. I got to learn more about the different projects that the youths had working on and got to partake in the celebration of their accomplishments through their graduation. I knew one cohort of young men, high school students, through my current position at Columbia School of Social Work. It was so good to see them up there, receiving their diplomas after a semester of brainstorming, sharing in one another, and skill-building for public safety in their communities. I had the honor of seeing first-hand what brave, smart, and kind young men they are, how much they have to push up against in this world, and how much they want a better society for themselves and their loved ones.

Throughout the evening, I was most touched by the young entrepreneurs who gave a pitch for their startup to increase mental health awareness in their communities, which have high needs due to personal experiences with traumatic events. "My little sister ran away and she was made a sex slave," said one of the young founders. He said that occurrence made him go through a very dark time. This boy in front of my eyes, shorter and smaller than his peers, couldn't have been older than high-school age. There is no better example of "making your own opportunities" than what these kids pitching were doing. What they presented displayed incredible amount of research (problem, solution, target audience, marketing strategy, etc), public speaking skills, resilience, and courage. As someone who has led a startup through the University of Chicago Booth College of Business's Social New Venture Challenge, I can safely say that these characteristics should speak volumes to anyone with the potential to fund them or provide the next level of educational programming. And that's what they really need now: next-level support.

My free portrait sketch session attracted folks that are connected to BCJC in various ways: current youth, alumni, and staff. Once I got through my initial drawings in silence as I warmed up from the cold outside, I absolutely loved getting to know these individuals' stories, and the different ways that a safe and inviting community space like BCJC brought them together. I won't share these stories because I didn't obtain permission for anything beyond sharing my drawings. But I'll say that I had such a blast getting to know them and I feel like I'm the luckiest person in the world for doing what I love in being present for and with these folks while I draw and appreciate them. Here are select sketches.

Here's to fostering the community, advocating for its needs, and continuing the fight against injustice for the Brownsville community!


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