Available in Español
Since 2011, Asheville Writers In The Schools and Community (AWITSC) has created free arts and culture programming, for youth and families of color who do not have access to such experiences due to barriers such as cost, lack of transportation, absence of such programming or overt and covert discrimination. With a critical analysis towards power and systemic oppression, AWITSC provides living wage employment, consulting opportunities and professional development for black and brown adults who are disproportionately impacted by income instability. Last year (AWITSC) produced more than 700 hours of arts and culture programming for Asheville’s youth.
One of AWITSC’s incredible programs is Word on the Street/La Voz de les Jóvenes, a youth program that centers the leadership and creativity of black and brown youth, ages 13-19. Here are a few of our favorite things about Word on the Street/La Voz de les Jóvenes:
Ignites Social Change Through Art
Since 2016, the work of Word on the Street/La Voz de les Jóvenes’ (WOTS/VDLJ) has been guided by a powerful mission. Through arts-based programming, participants develop healthy relationships with peers and mentors, while working to make a difference in their community using their voices, talents and imaginations. As members of “The Squad,” youth build a unique and bilingual space to become hopeful about their futures, experience racial healing and develop a radical imagination to build a better world.
Cultivates Creativity, Hope, and Belonging
The Squad uses whatever art medium speaks to them–from visual art to writing, filmmaking to photography.
In the process, youth step out of their comfort zone and this creative practice helps to foster hope. Over time, youth are able to set goals for a different tomorrow, identify different pathways to get to their goal, and creatively navigate challenges encountered along the way.
One outcome of WOTS/VDLJ is a deep sense of belonging. The Squad develops strong relationships and a deep-felt sense of community. Additionally as a bilingual space, those who prefer to communicate in Spanish or a combination of English and Spanish are encouraged and supported to speak in the language that most resonates. Providing spaces like this is an act of resistance and helps participants develop a strong sense of culture and positive racial identity.
Provides Pathways for Leadership Development and Economic Mobility
WOTS/VDLJ creates pathways to economic mobility and leadership development for black and brown youth and adults who are disproportionately excluded from legal sources of income and face economic disadvantage due to the education gap, the school to prison pipeline and institutionalized racism. Currently, AWITSC is incubating a social enterprise model that offers BIPOC artists and members of The Squad the opportunity to earn income for their time and talent, while also contributing to the sustainability of the organization.