The allure of Arts Corps was, and still is overwhelming. I can’t believe such a place existed outside of my brain. An education organization that used arts as a tool to address inequities in a K-12 environment. When Elizabeth Whitford suggested that I apply, I thought no way that they would hire a brotha from Chicago/Brooklyn with only one good ear, and a love for expletives.
Somehow they hired me, and I moved my family across the country to work at this glorious organization. The first two years were magical. I breathed fresh air for the first time in my life. I went camping. I saw a snake. My kids didn’t have to wear a uniform to school. It didn’t rain as much as New York. I tried Pho, and I went to my first caucus. There were some hiccups: I couldn’t make friends and we were the only folks of color in our zip code. People thought my way of talking was improper. I didn’t under passive aggressiveness. People had emotions I never experienced. I went to my first caucus.
But we still thrived at Arts Corps. That is until about 3 months ago, or more when we started to spiral out of what I had envisioned for Arts Corps. What I embraced several years ago began to look like a different organization. Something went askew and we tried some new things to help us get back to what Arts Corps was about: revolutionizing education and igniting youth voice. We felt lost as an organization, and I was afraid we were heading towards our demise. I realized I couldn’t let this happen to Arts Corps, to our community, to my family that took this strange trip with me, and that’s when I realized we needed to do something different.
With change, comes a lot of pain and sometimes anger and resentment. Looking at the staff, I knew that though it would be difficult, I had to made a decision to help us grow, as an organization. So I had to make some staffing changes. I had to fight for Arts Corps the same way that Arts Corps fought for me.
It wasn’t fun, nor easy, but it was decided that two of our staff members could no longer be part of the Arts Corps fight. They have done so much for Arts Corps, but our paths had to separate. I will always consider them part of our community, and I hope they will consider Arts Corps part of theirs. I know we will bounce back and it will take some time, but I am confident, we will do it. I will need to work closely with programs team to do that. I see us reaching new heights with PDs and workshops that we offer to other schools and school districts. I see us deepening our amazing cs lab work. I see LIT becoming a model for the city and other regions to implement. I see The Residency venturing out on its own, with our support. I know Youth Speaks will still be a platform for unfettered youth expression. I see us shaping the education system to be more culturally responsive and engaging to young people and their families. I see us working in places we have never worked before, that could help subsidize the work we are doing in our communities. I see us working with local government to shift policies and practices. I see us changing the region, the country, and the world.
I am excited for the future of Arts Corps, and I know there may still some lingering thoughts or feelings. If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to me and/or the Board President, Tanisha Brandon-Felder. Arts Corps is the best thing that happened to me, and I hope it can continue being the light that guides us towards a better future.
Thank you and Much Love,