Saturday, June 17th marked what we hope to be the first of many celebrations for our Action Scholars. In addition to celebrating the end of a long and difficult year, we took the opportunity to celebrate the hard work and tenacity of our scholars that have invested so much in CDF, in their schools and the larger Long Beach community. The day was designed to provide space for our scholars to share with a larger community some of the work and projects they have taken on this year. We took over Houghton Park and filled it with family, friends, and lots of youth. There was food, a DJ, a Pinata and lots of love. Scholars got on the mic and shared deep intimate poems showing the power of writing their own narratives, and two of our graduating scholars (Maria and Sarai) took the opportunity to showcase a video they’ve worked tirelessly on for months. The video showed the process of their in-depth project looking at homelessness in Long Beach. In addition to showing the video, Maria and Sarai opened the conversation up to the community to create a larger dialogue about the project they started and the larger issue itself. To say it was powerful is an understatement. This was not staff driven work; this was completely driven and held by our scholars.
Celebrating our youth in a city and system that is constantly breaking them down is a revolutionary act, and providing space for them to express themselves openly and freely just contributed to helping establish a culture of youth empowerment in Long Beach. We knew we needed to create this space, but we had no idea how it would all come together.
Our hope is that this will be an annual event, and we can begin systematizing the curriculum to support more Action Scholar based projects, and more writing workshops for youth to explore their personal narratives. But for our first try, it was a powerful and humbling experience. Parents were emotional, and the community was inspired. We just have to find ways to continue to build off this momentum.