Q&A: Deep Center fuels Savannah’s youth to use writing, arts, culture to improve community health – The Kresge Foundation

Our community-based partners are applying culture and creativity to their efforts to advance the health and wellbeing of residents. In the Q& A below, Louise Tremblay, interim executive director of the Deep Center, discusses her organization’s approach to use writing, cultural production and art as platforms in order to fuel the particular creative fire of Savannah’s youth plus connect their own learnings to transformational change in their communities.

Q1: For those who are unfamiliar with your organization, what is the story you want to tell about The Heavy Center? Why was it created? What program offerings do you want to uplift?

The particular Deep Middle, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was founded in 2008 to address the detrimental effects of poverty on literacy in Savannah, Georgia. During our first year, we hosted free creative-writing workshops for 24 young people from two local public schools and published one book of writing.

We’ve grown a lot since 2008. We now host 10 programs for both youth and adults. We intentionally serve youth plus adults each in the school district and in the justice system, and work on the tracks of direct services, narrative change plus systems modify. We currently work with 700 youth across Georgia and more than 200 teachers, adult artists, writers plus community stakeholders every 12 months. All told, we have supported more than 4, 500 young people with our free composing, arts, and leadership programs. We’ve published more compared to 120 anthologies of youth and adult work; trained a lot more than 400 local creating mentors; managed live readings reaching diverse audiences associated with 12, 000; and shared Savannah’s stories around the nation.

“Ultimately, we envision a Savannah where our younger people plus their families thrive because learners, community leaders, and artists; plus we envision a community, a government, and institutions that hear, value, and respond to their particular voices with equity, proper rights, and care. ” ~ Louise Tremblay

Strong Center youth are invited to imagine what an equitable Savannah looks like and what tools they will need in order to achieve this.

Q2: Kresge’s Arts & Culture Program positions culture plus creativity since drivers of more just communities so that occupants can thrive and live self-determined lives. We believe the pre-conditions for long-term change include resident agency and collective action. Can you share more about how pre-conditions show up in the work of The Serious Center?

In an inequitable ecosystem that is the product associated with an unjust history, placing the burden of change only upon young people and vulnerable populations ignores their day-to-day realities, sets them up to fail, and, most importantly, misses the root causes of their own challenges. Far too often , Deep Center has lifted up youngsters, adults plus families only to see all of them bump into ceilings they did not build. All of us have come to understand that in order for us to truly support Savannah’s youth and family members, we must lift them upward while simultaneously working to dismantle these ceilings. In 2018 during a strategic planning session, it became evident that will we could no longer in good conscience continue to hold up our young adults in our own programs without confronting the particular systemic barriers that they would run into. We all made the decision to work through a root-cause framework and began incorporating legislative plus administrative policy and advocacy into the work.

Just a few years later, we now have the public plan wing that works within tandem with the community organizing efforts. Our policy decisions are pulled from teenagers in our spaces, the experiences in our areas, and the particular day inside, day out function with our own partners and fellow stakeholders. All are usually focused on identifying the many different needs in our city, our county, and inside our state. As of 2022, we now have released numerous policy briefs plus memos, worked directly on town and region task forces, advocated at the condition level, and provided nonpartisan policy development, technical assistance, and support to elected leaders, administrative officials, plus think tanks across every level of legislation.

Q3: With regard to those who still may not be convinced, how can tradition and creativeness inspire youngsters to become agents associated with change?

Our framework is anti-racist, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive. We promote a roots-cause model of youth and local community development that will works on three parallel tracks: immediate service, systems change, plus narrative alter. Deep Middle lifts up youth and their village, advocates for just policies, plus disrupts dehumanizing narratives along with firsthand tales about youngsters and their particular families’ healing, growing, and thriving through individual growth and group action.

Deeply Center meets young people where they are – with their joys, unique personal experiences, and neighborhood knowledge – to celebrate who they are, challenge them to express themselves powerfully, and assistance their critical awareness of how their own stories intersect with the neighborhood block, the city, and the world beyond.

Furthermore, the pedagogy is assets-based, encouraging participants to utilize their lives, families, plus communities as the primary source of material for their original writing, artwork, and leadership activities. Our organizational place within the neighborhoods with which all of us work will be defined by the values of inclusion, transparency, plus institutional humility.

We listen.   Our own teaching writers and performers reflect this humility: these people and all adult stakeholders who enter our learning spaces are in the room with youth as co-learners and fellow writers and artists.

Q4: Deep Center created a set associated with policy recommendations during the pandemic to guide rapid response efforts. Are you able to share read more about the particular process, suggestions, how they were implemented, and overall outcome(s)?

Deep Center has convened two teams – the Action Research Team plus the Policy Action Committee – made up of youth, family members, local community stakeholders, and national experts to research plus identify the particular administrative and legislative policies that are harming Chatham County’s families. The first phase of this particular research plus dialogue culminated in late 2019, when Heavy and our youth leaders, in partnership with Dr. Kevin Burke from the University of Atlanta, published 1) our research findings and 2) our own first-ever plan brief published in 2019, The Stories Are the Evidence: Youth-Powered Policies for a More Simply and Equitable Savannah , which identified guidelines that, if enacted, might make Savannah a safe and supportive place with regard to working-class youthful people, youngsters of color, and other marginalized young people plus their households.

Since then, Deep has committed to techniques change work, publishing more policy briefs, Rapid Responses, New Realities: Heavy Center’s COVID-19 Policy Recommendations , and the 2020 policy brief, Building the Restorative Community: Recommendations for City, County, State, School Board, Law Enforcement, and Beyond , plus our the majority of recent brief Bound Up Within Each Other . We also have created multiple white papers, technical assistance memos, and other briefs that present evidence, data, and lived experience upon things like juvenile fines and fees, bail and bond reform, local jail churn, the cost savings of decriminalization, etc . Our policy process is beginning to look a little different, as we’ve now expanded in to multiple spaces and are not really convening stakeholders in intentional meetings, but rather working with them one-on-one more often.

Q5: Are there any additional key learnings you’d like to share with readers regarding how lifestyle and creativity programs can inform public policies?

Deep Center is invested in plans that have an general positive impact on our local community, leading in order to better general public safety. It is our belief that small, yet meaningful plan decisions can lead to a more equitable Chatham County. We were once told by a local stakeholder that there are simply too many fires to put out, plus that a cash bail ordinance of this nature is simply not a big enough fire. Yet, we ask the following: Can we in good faith tell those who have got suffered the effects of reactionary policy that their particular individual experience of injustice was simply not enough of a fire for us to place out?

Strong Center is usually invested in a Chatham County that will works for all: for justice-impacted people, regarding young people and their families, four justice stakeholders, for taxpayers, for neighborhoods. For almost all. When our own community says that it’s time to change things, we all have to use just about all of the organizational power and leverage to change procedures and legislation.

“We are saying that it can be better, and that justice should not be afforded by your race, your zip code, or your own tax bracket. That in case we give people the particular resources they will need, we will have safer communities. That we can’t plant seeds inside barren dirt and then blame the seed. Our own conditions simply need in order to be better. ”  ~ Louise Tremblay

Learn more about Louise Tremblay and Deep Middle by visiting: deepcenter. org . Follow Deep Center on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter .

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