Monday, August 29, 2011

The power of one…

Happy Monday, y’all!

I’m still recovering from the New Organizing Institute’s Advanced Data Training in DC.

My brain is packed full of some serious data knowledge…and my body is exhausted…but I have to say that NOI’s data training was one of the best training sessions I have had the privilege of participating in!

Yawn…sip coffee…continue.

Anyhoo…

Last night I watched 60 Minutes. Specifically, I watched the segment on the Gospel for Teens program created and run by a certain Vy Higginsen. Ms. Higginsen is a New York radio personality and theater producer and she created Gospel for Teens five years ago.

The 60 Minutes segment was fantabulous, emotional, and inspiring. I watched as teens from New York City auditioned for a program created to preserve and pass on the unique art of gospel music to our youth. The segment introduced us to several young people who face real world challenges…and it also gave us an update of sorts on what’s what in the life of Vy Higginsen.

Oh yes…I thought you knew… we’ve heard from Ms. Higginsen before!

Back in 2007 I watched a feature on people researching their family tree that featured Higginsen. I watched as she explained her motivation, anxiety, and hopes for discovering more about her past. The story was beyond engaging as New Yorker Higginsen discovered that she has a living relative in my home state of Missouri…Poplar Bluff to be specific…oh, and her new cousin is white.

Yep, Ms. Higginsen got one hell of a phone call.

“Hello. My name is Marion West. And I'm a cattle rancher from Poplar Bluff, Missouri. And I understand we're cousins."

You’ve gotta love it!

Back then I was struck by Vy Higginsen’s joyful smile…her humor…and her honest emotions. 

When I saw Higginsen’s beautiful face again last night, I instantly recognized her…she made that much of an impression.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that she is doing amazing things.

I have personal experience in the power of programs like Gospel for Teens. When I was a wee bitch growing up in a troubled home (translation – fucked up from the floor up for multiple reasons), I found solace and empowerment in my advanced writing classes, tennis team, and choir. For a few hours a week I was able to prove to myself that I wasn’t worthless or stupid or doomed to a life of nothingness. I like to think of those moments as regular vaccinations against oppression and verbal abuse.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that those few hours each week got me through one of the most challenging times of my life.

So, yes…I cried as I watched young people step outside their protective shell and start expressing their inner self through music.

I couldn’t help smiling as Higginsen looked on with that beautiful smile on her face, enjoying the young people as much as the music they made.

I know the power of one.

I’ve been the recipient of someone’s simple act of giving a shit and I have been a mentor.

So, here’s a fluff of the Afro to Vy Higginsen and the youth of Gospel for Teens - go on with your bad selves!

I don't know about y'all, but I needed a reminder that empowering others is empowering too…

1 comment:

Lesboprof said...

The piece struck me on so many levels, too. I thought about how students may be more touched and inspired than we teachers can ever know. And how important the arts can be to our society, which is why real education needs more than reading, writing, and math tests. The young men and women in the piece are inspirational.