Guest post by Kara McNamee
The power of art can illuminate a strength within us that we might not be aware of. It provides us a safe passageway into a world of positive expression. Different forms of art empower and heal those suffering from neglect and abuse. Looking to encourage the positive impact of art, the Arts Empowerment Project (TAEP) has been continuing to make an impact in the community.
This organization I am involved with pairs court affiliated and at-risk children to art and enrichment programs. This past week we have had the opportunity to host two different programs in the greater Charlotte area.
Beginning on Tuesday, our organization and a handful of young children, headed to the courthouse for a hip hop 101 class. We were fortunate enough to be accompanied by Fuzion Force dance company coach, Tommy Hill. Hesitant originally, the kids finally broke their tough shells and got involved with the activity. Through dancing, these children opened up and expressed themselves through movement. With such a comfortable environment, the kids were happy to brainstorm with Hill other forms of positive activity that can perpetuate better behavior. Using their bodies and the boom box, laughter and good spirits filled the room. Hearing each one of their dreams and aspirations was refreshing and beautiful. With the help of hip hop, the kids became more vulnerable and willing to listen on how they can better reach their goals for the future.
Later in the week, a panel discussion for teens and community members was held at the Children and Family Service Center. The idea behind the “Promoting Peace” activity was to bring together DJJ youth, CMPD, counselors and community members to discuss issues regarding respect for community members, specifically, in light of recent events within society such as police brutality. This roundtable discussion took off the “mask” of the police officers and presented them as humans ready to give advice and talk face to face to troubled teens. Once the conversation started, it wasn’t long before the kids were throwing in commentary. They are afraid. It is as simple as that. They made it apparent that when they see the uniform, they want nothing to do with it. They pick up their phones and are bombarded with social media that stereotypes police officers or promotes #blacklives matter. Due to personal interaction with the officers, the kids gained insight on what it means to be an officer. Risking your life everyday to keep peace within the community. The panel opened up dialogue about concerns and questions ongoing in the community and promoted communication and understanding between different community members.
The impact these programs have inspire change. The Arts Empowerment Project strives to promote positive lifestyles and behavior through various enrichment activities. To see the change one program has is incredible. These kids are good people looking for a way to deal with their every day life. They are just like the rest of us but need motivation and inspiration. They need an outlet and support and this program offer that. My heart is filled with grace realizing that these children are receiving an opportunity that can set them on the right path to be whatever they want to be. These kids are so unique and wonderful. Funny, wild, imaginative, genuine. To see their face light up through a drawing or conversation is moving. The positive power of art is so strong, and I love getting to see these kids reflect that strength.