My Journey to Becoming an I Am Why Activist

by | May 30, 2022 | Art and Activism, Motherhood, Partner Organizations

I Am Why’s book opens a door…

Ebony, one of I Am Why’s consultants, nominated me a while back to receive a dream reader copy of the I Am Why book, I Am Why Reclaiming the Lens. At that point I didn’t even know what the book was about or what I Am Why was. Dream reader copies were created for individuals who would benefit from having a copy of the book but couldn’t exactly afford the selling I Am Why Reclaiming The Lensprice.

While reading through the book, I became fascinated by the work of I Am Why (IAW). This motivated me to ask the staff at Artistic Noise, one of IAW’s partners, when there would be an opportunity to become a part of the IAW community. Artistic Noise is a non-profit organization that brings the power of artistic practice to youth who are system-involved.

Bringing activist/artist alumni together

Due to my interest, IAW developed the Alumni-to-Alumni program, where consultants of IAW facilitate workshops with alumni of partner organizations. Ebony, who got me into Artistic Noise back in 2017, facilitated the alumni-to-alumni workshop, and Fran took the photo of me and my son for the workshop, which I turned into a collage. That’s how I became an IAW consultant.

A few months prior to joining the IAW community, I began to take a different role in Artistic Noise by transitioning from a participant in the Art & Entrepreneurship program to my current role as an alumni. This transition planted the seeds for the next steps in my leadership and artistic development. In addition to gaining these new roles at IAW and Artistic Noise, I have also begun to put my career as an artist on the front lines by getting commissioned and turning my pieces of work into merchandise such as t-shirts, magnets, playing cards, buttons and prints.

Next steps: motherhood, mentorship and meaningful impact

Although I have been building my career as an artist and advocate since I was 16, I hadn’t recognized the work I had put in until I became a mom. Even though my son is still only a toddler, I think of how I can be an example to him by doing what I love and showing him the value in perseverance and determination. These reflections on my role as a mother have helped me connect with IAW’s Motherhood Support Group.

Even though I have only been a group member for a few months, I have been able to expand my knowledge when it comes to caring for my son by listening to other moms talk about their own experiences in parenting. In the group, moms join together to give one another support, insight and a safe space to talk about the day-to-day life of being moms. Currently, we are creating “Mommy Diaries”, where we take 15-20 minutes in our meetings to just write and flow our dilemmas and ideals of being a mom onto the page. These writings have included beautiful poetry, letters, and stories by the mothers of IAW.

Being a part of the Motherhood Support Group has led to a shift in my leadership. Coming into IAW feels like the next step of my leadership and professional development, where I am expanding my knowledge in this work and field. I look at the other IAW consultants as mentors and am able to use this experience to now be a mentor to the participants in Artistic Noise. As part of the IAW community, I’ve been able to see first-hand how I can use my artwork to my advantage when thinking about the policies I’m looking to reform, and create meaningful impact with my work.

-Samantha, I Am Why consultant

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