Sharing Lives Art Matters (SLAM) is our outreach to youth currently residing at the Bridgeport and Hartford juvenile detention facilities. JDPP teaching artists meet weekly throughout the year with the youth and engage in various writing, movement, and visual art activities.
Recently the young men in the Bridgeport program worked on a lesson entitled, “Where I’m From.” This writing activity allowed them to reflect on the neighborhoods, community, and families they come from.
We asked teaching artist Meghan McDermott to share a bit about this activity.
“Lili and I gave our guys at Bridgeport SLAM an assignment to write about themselves and where they grew up. Their writing blew us away at how honest, vulnerable and sometimes heartbreaking they were. “Where I’m From” is a look inside what these young men go through and how they survive on a daily basis. With any teenage program there are usually lots of reminders to be respectful and quiet to hear instructions for the lesson; however, when we read the prompt and previous poems written from years ago we had their full attention. Our room was silent, still, quiet and curious.
“’I am from Bridgeport. Where people get shot and have to sell drugs to get money to feed the family. I’m from a place where people have to do things they don’t want to do to live. I’m from a place where moms are crying and screaming for help to stop the violence and get their kids back.’ —SLAM Participant
“They understood the poems we were reading because they had lived those lines themselves. They were so enthusiastic about writing their own stories down and sharing them with the group. One boy in particular was having a rough start in SLAM that day ended up writing the longest and most profound piece that day. Afterward, he asked us if his poem could be shared as the example prompt in the future for SLAM sessions.
“’Sometimes I be mixin different meds just to make it through the day. Do you know how it feels to be yourself but somehow you feel ashamed? I’m living two different sides of the story I be battling with my brain. I mingle with my demons ‘cause they the only ones who know the pain.’ —SLAM Participant
“I am immensely proud of the courage and truth they each told in their stories. Seeing them become authors and proudly share each piece gives me so much hope for their healing and future.
“’I’m from a city to a town. From smiles and frowns. From ups & downs to police siren sounds. I’m from paying the bills to reading relative’s wills—losing family to pills and friends getting killed.’” —SLAM Participant