Photo by Mansura Khanam.

Welcome to our Young New Yorkers All-Women’s 8-Week Diversion Program Fall 2015 Exhibition.

At the beginning of each class, we sat together in a circle and shared stories from our week and our lives as a way of connecting as a community, and getting ready for the class ahead. We called this time Circle Check-in. As the weeks progressed sometimes Circle Check-in would go for more than an hour as our stories became increasingly important, or sad, or challenging. We laughed together and we cried together. We shared, we connected, and we created our community in that circle.

As a community, we began to notice that there are a multitude of social issues that have impacted us directly. Half of us have recently, or are currently, experiencing homelessness. Some of us are in foster care; one of us has been living in a shelter with her mother for over a year; another spent some nights sleeping in a park before she found a place to live with a friend.

Many of us have experienced loss. One of us had her mother pass away the day before our fourth class. She came, and in the Circle Check-in asked us all not to say “awww” or rush to hug her after she shared. We listened. We cried. We refl ected on how loosing our mothers is among our biggest fears. We held hands. We sat in silence.

Three of us during the program were directly effected by gun violence in our communities. One of us was in a hospital waiting room in Brownsville helping her mom get treatment for back pain. A man came in, pulled out a gun, and pointed it at another man who was already waiting in the room. The second man moved behind a baby stroller. The whole room was terrified. Then the man with the gun left as quickly as he arrived. He never pulled the trigger. In our sixth class, two of us lost our friend to a shooting in Downtown Brooklyn. We shared our grief. We shared that we are worried about our brothers and our boyfriends. That the beefs that lead to these deaths were senseless.

Of course, we had many moments of joy. We shared our triumphs and our hopes. We shared what we were grateful for. We shared what we admired in each other. We had fun. Most of us are 16- and 17-years-old.

All of us are being prosecuted in Kings County Criminal Court as adults. We have learned that many other justice-involved youth are also likely to be effected by a similar array of social issues. These things are connected.

For our final exhibition we chose to invite you to share your stories, too. Then to place your stories on our shared landscape of Brooklyn. To connect as a single great community with more in common and more to offer each other than we may have, at first, known.

We hope you enjoy our exhibition!

Warm Wishes,

Christina, Shaniece, Tyra, Olivia, Shawntiara, Vanessa, Kathryn, Kiearra

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