In honor of National Mentoring Month and the release of I Am Why’s white paper on our mentorship model, I want to share my experience and growth in different mentorship roles at I Am Why. During October of 2022, I was granted the wonderful opportunity to co-lead the I Am Why book circle with La’ Nesha Baldwin when she asked me to join her in leading our group. Back then, we had only just finished reading our first book, The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice: Black Lives, Healing, and US Social Transformation by Fania E. Davis. I remember having my first meeting with La’ Nesha after I accepted her offer to co-lead the book circle. She told me one of the reasons she asked me to assist her in leading the group is because of how my creative mind can bounce off of any idea I’m given.
We discussed what books we could bring into the group and found many options. The book circle completed two books in our time together as co-leads: Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown and The Four Pivoits: Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves by Shawn A. Ginwright, PhD. While reading these books, our group had conversations about applying what we learned from the books into our work as consultants; it was a great example of how I Am Why’s group mentorship helps people grow professionally. After we finished our third book, I Am Why went through some organizational shifts that resulted in our book circle turning into a creative outlet.
The Embrace Creative Freedom Learning Pod emerged, giving our consultants spaces and opportunities to write, following along with a few workshops. These workshops were published by Girls Write Now (https://girlswritenow.org/) in the hope that others would have a chance to participate. “She is an artist whose art explores those emotions & thoughts that she has as a woman in the diaspora, Growing up in New York City where creativity and freedom run free, Where you don’t become independent, Independent becomes you.” (Samantha Cortez, I Am Why Social Media & Art Manager).” Thanks to their support, the creativity of each consultant budded into a new flower.
As the Embrace Creative Freedom Pod closed our year, my co-lead La’ Nesha decided to step away from our group. With much inspiration from her as a peer mentor, I thought of a new project to work on within our learning pod. Creating art as a form of self-expression is a very important aspect of the I Am Why community, and it empowers our consultants to reclaim our stories. Our art-making is also an excellent example of I Am Why’s mentorship in action, where we grow our skills through purposeful action. For our next project, we will be creating two painting series. The first series will be a reflection of our poetry collections and incorporate a piece we wrote from the past year. The second series will be paintings that tell two sides of a story:; A False Story Told by Society & Reclaiming Our Narratives. In our time together, we will practice having a creative outlet and self-care.
As the lead of Embracing Creative Freedom, I’m looking forward to guiding my fellow consultants through this painting project as a peer mentor, helping them develop their skills in other fields. As most of them have said, “I’m a better writer than artist.” I’m hoping to create space for them to be comfortable with painting, and other art forms in the future. I believe the participants in the Embracing Creative Freedom pod will unleash their inner artists during the next six months. I’m excited to see what we create, and how we can mentor each other’s hands, minds and hearts.
-Mirah Marcus-Garcia, I Am Why Embrace Creative Freedom Lead, Speak On Us Co-Lead
Click here to read I Am Why’s newly released white paper: “I Am Why’s Mentorship Model: A Nested Ecosystem of Intergenerational Learning and Growth.”