I believe all children have an instinct to follow the passions and purposes within. When we’re younger we tend to gravitate to the things that are grafted in our very being, and later that same instinct is overtaken with cares, doubts and overthinking. We forget what what makes us happy and gives our lives meaning. Lately, I’ve found myself along with the other Design Mentors, helping the students develop a relationship with certain aspects of creativity to cling to or that relates to them…one aspect being history.
History Lesson from Within
At Miller Jr. High School, we were able to see the incredible work of late photographer Rogerline Johnson of Johnson’s Studio. These photo’s were taken some time in the 1950s and really gave a feeling of the times. The viewing reminded me of how rich this area is in HISTORY. Another one of my favorite things that Helena has to offer is Warfield Concerts. This is an annual concert series that brings world renowned performing artists to the Delta. The series is usually held at the Lily Peter Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center at Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas, free of charge to the public. I recently enjoyed the culture rich performance of Step Afrika. The show was nothing short of magical and downright amazing! For me, it dropped a puzzle piece of black history right into my spirit, this seemed to reconnect me to apart of my past that I had never accessed, but knew was there. I left feeling enchanted and empowered. There’s something inexplicable about discovering your past and uncovering a little about where you came from that gives you a glimpse of where you can go and what you’re capabable of.
As we are ending the 6th week of school, I’ve began to build community relationships that I never thought I would. I attended a Team Helena potluck, hosted by Lynn and Dana Chadwick, which gathered people from all over our town that all share a common vision for Helena-West Helena, an incredible place with tremendous potential. Since I was youth, I couldn’t help but notice the disassociation between the communities in downtown Helena and West Helena, despite the close proximity. Being connected with my roots here, my partnership with Thrive and the school district, I am compelled to believe that we may be well on our way to bridging this gap.
I’ve also developed a greater sense of support for ANYONE seeking to promote positivity in the community. Shout out to Ricky Murph, Apostle Steven Cannon, Pastor Izah Broadus, Tyrus Sloan Jr, St. Johns Episcopal Church, Young Life at Delta Fellowship, Thrive and many others in the community that have been reaching out to the youth and the city as a whole! Things like this gives me hope for the future of our young people.
“Change Isn’t Change Until You Change”
As we progress further into the year, I can’t help but notice the things that have changed for the better, some things that have worsened and the things that have remained the same since I was a student here in the district. Perhaps the most prominent of these things is realizing the effect our surroundings has on our learning propensity. I began to question myself about how I could make a difference if I weren’t involved in my community. This opportunity with Thrive forced me out of my comfort zone of solitude and thrust me before the very people and things I deliberately separated myself from and offered me a platform to share my thoughts and experiences and more important than that allows me to be a voice for the students. So, I recently asked myself, “Can you change another persons mindset?”. I asked others, surprisingly I got lots of feedback from my family, local friends, and even Facebook friends. I’ve concluded through those group discussions and plain old observation of the history of people, that mindsets are influenced immensely by surroundings. Here in Helena it seems the good things have to be sought out like hidden treasure. I have begun to realize how much was out of the control of the teachers and how small of a window there is to make an impact in these kids lives. So far these kids in these classrooms have started to defy the odds. The projects have began to blossom, and even though it is a struggle to keep the students on task and focused, it is truly heart warming to watch them in action and bubbling over with ideas! The projects are very heartfelt and include improving public safety and crime in our city, drug awareness in teens, natural disaster preparedness in the Delta, anti-bullying, fixing the floors at the skating rink to increase the number the recreational activities that seem to be lacking and (my favorite) the little free pantry to help with the poverty levels in the area.