St. Roch Community Youth SoapBox Collective hosted by Making Connections NOLA & Crescent Care Health

On Saturday evening, Mother’s Day Eve while most of you were out shopping for last minute Mother’s Day gifts for the phenomenal women in your lives; several of us from the St. Roch Community sat in a room in support of our talented youth and adults from our neighborhood. We came together in a low lit community room to listen and see the works of our youth entitled” Soapbox Collective,” you may know it by Open Mic for an evening of music, performances, and works of arts that engage the issues of our young people. Soapbox was inspired by the idea that a simple, humble box–that one stands on and delivers a speech from–can start a movement and perhaps even help to change the world. The event was a combination of photography and Open Mic in the form of poetry and music. It was an excellent outlet for youth to showcase their talents while learning about the stigmas surrounding mental health. We were allowed to visualize how the teen views the community they live in, our community, St. Roch through photos they took throughout the neighborhood. As a teen, I was terrified to show my writing no less reading it to an audience, and it touched my heart to see and hear from the courageous young souls.

The words were so full of depth as if the young writer lived a long, painful life and found the secret to live and smile at the scars of the past. The strings from the guitar danced through my soul, adding rhythm to my heartbeat. The pictures that flashed before my eyes wondered how can a young soul have the eye to spot a cat sitting carelessly in a junky yard on a New Orleans summer day. I wondered how did each one find it in their heart and soul to present their views of” Their Nola” without being afraid of the adult critics and snooty goodie two shoes. What I would give to be a free-thinking kid again; where the only opinion mattered was my reflection and imagination. We grow up and people’s perception matter, and it corrupts our creativity. Some do not realize that talent, be it singing, painting, writing, cooking, and so on is often all that someone may have. The creative voice may be that one thing that keeps these teens alive. It makes me think of the kids drumming on plastic buckets on Bourbon St. Have you ever paid attention to the looks on their faces when you drop money in the tip bucket? Their faces light up as if you are paying for hearing that perfect best they made right before you reached in your pocketbook. They aren’t looking for a handout; they want you to be happy with their performance to the point that you are willing to pay for it. It’s all about the validation of their unique abilities. I left with the desire of wanting to be young again, regretting holding on to my writings for so long, resenting my ex-husband for burning all the years of my teenage life to my twenties. I lost so much of my work from fear of people, but I can rejoice, encourage, and celebrate the youth to showcase their talents. I’m left in awe of them, and I’m so happy to have attended the St. Roch SoapBox Collections.

Photo credit of Making Connections youth

The project was made possible by Making Connections NOLA and Crescent Care in honor of the St. Roch neighborhood and residents by displaying pictures relevant to the community in which we live.

Making Connections NOLA is a neighborhood driven, multiorganizational front to work toward mental health and well-being for African- American men and boys in St. Roch. Making Connections is relatively new to the St. Roch neighborhood, but they have proven that they are here to make a change. They are engaged with our youth, offering weekly sessions and events. Their mental health services for the men was a much-needed service, and the men in the neighborhood have finally warmed up to coming into meetings and events hosted by Making Connections. The organization hosts community events as well, such as Home Buyers Class, Hurricane Preparedness, and so on.

Crescent Care Health is new to St. Roch Neighborhood, and I’m excited about the community after touring the clinic and hearing all that Crescent Care has to offer the people in our neighborhood. The Soapbox was held in the clinic’s FREE community room! Crescent Care provides a food pantry, a pharmacy, legal aid, a SHOWER for people in need; there’s a credit union and so much more! There will be a Community Dental Clinic, as well. I was told that on Friday the clinic swapped out 250 clean needles (syringes) with no questions asked and that’s awesome! It’s one thing to use, but to be brave enough to go into a business and get clean needles to me means the dirty needles are off the street, not laying on the ground and so on. A step towards recovery and the decrease of diseases, if you ask me.

Everything Crescent Care offers is needed for my community.

No New Orleans event can happen without food, and my friends at Sweet Soul Food catered the event. If you haven’t read my blog on Sweet Soul Food, let me tell you that they made me a believer in Vegan food. I used to tease my Vegan friends eating habits, calling them tasteless grass eaters and my good friend dragged me into Sweet’s and I was upset, that is until I got up and paid for seconds. Sweet’s is the New Orleans foodie spot, and she keeps it so Nola! I questioned her like you couldn’t tell me there was no butter, eggs, or milk in her macaroni and cheese or the best bread pudding I ever had! I need some bread pudding and some of that creamy homemade ice cream! I can’t go on, because it’s 2 am and I can’t get my fix this time of night, so I’ll end it with ”Go to Sweet Soul Food” even if are a ride or die meat eater. You won’t be disappointed!

Vegan Jambalaya, Collard Greens, Baked Macaroni & Cheese, and BbQ Cauliflower compliments of Sweer Soulfood

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