During its first month and a half, Y.O. S.O.S. has been working on building group dynamics and learning about different types of community organizing. The Youth Organizers have heard from a number of guest speakers, including a speaker from the Brooklyn Movement Center and Project Reach Youthas well as one who spoke about violence as a public health issue, signs of trauma, and strategies for self-care.

Last week the young people had an opportunity to take action themselves. The Youth Organizers met to collaborate with Art Start, an organization that uses art to work with at-risk youth. Art Start’s One Mic program works with court-involved youth to help them write and create their own music, while also doing self development and leadership activities.

The YO S.O.S. Youth Organizers pose with Art Start participants

Y.O. S.O.S. is all about valuing youth voices, and this collaboration was driven entirely by the young people. The Youth Organizers chose what they wanted to present and how to present it. They thought through all the activities they had experienced so far in Y.O. S.O.S., and selected three pieces to share during the Youth Exchange event:  They spoke about their own experiences with violence, taught about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and resiliency, and led activities to show how conflict escalates and how to de-escalate it.

One of the Youth Organizers leads an icebreaker activity for the group
After Y.O. S.O.S. presented, members of Art Start shared some of the music that they had created. The young people from both organizations then discussed different mediums that could be used to make change. They also had a productive discussion about gender ratios in the two groups, and how to make both more diverse. One young man from Art Start said that after meeting with Y.O. S.O.S., he was going to start talking to his friends about gun violence.

Members of Art Start perform
In closing, they discussed what will come next for the Y.O. S.O.S. collaboration. In the future, the Youth Organizers may have the opportunity to present and collaborate with other youth involved in alternative to incarceration programs, and they look forward to attending events hosted by Art Start and similar arts and empowerment based youth programs. Art Start is currently recruiting for their Emerging Artists-in-Residence program, a one-on-one arts mentorship for youth between the ages of 17 and 20 who are not currently in school. Click the link to learn more about this and other Art Start programs.