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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

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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.

http://makingconnectionsnola.org/

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.

https://crescentcarehealth.org/

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!

https://www.sweetvegansoulfood.com/

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

A native of New Orleans, who left her beloved New Orleans to spend twenty years of living in the land of Minnesota Not So Nice. Minnesota was full of opportunities but would learn that the soul of the state and the people who made it was just as icy cold as the temperatures. After the years and my 40th birthday flew by, I decided it was time to pack up my youngest child and come back to my roots, my birthplace the city that not only birthed me but gave me life. I would not be who I am without my New Orleans beginnings. I am all things that would challenge the belief of growing up in New Orleans. I was a 16yr old teen mother of a premature baby born with a severe medical disability. And only With the help of my mother, was it possible for me to BE! I was able to endure and survive the obstacles laid before my child and me. In a city that was built by my family, but did not allow for us to reap the benefits I overcame. Charity Hospital was my second home — a building filled with miracle workers who made it possible for my daughter to have life. I have lived a life of rainy days with peeks of sunshine, that are my children, including those not of my womb. I'm the proud mother of three and a grandmother of three. My dream was to live the life of the nursery rhyme of ”The Old Lady Who lived in a shoe,” and for the most part, I did. I cared for several children over the years as a special needs foster parent. I would learn that my love was not enough for some children, but I loved them through their pain. I'm not sure if I ever had a case of true love or came close to what love looks like on television, but I had my share of men and the mirage of love. I survived two abusive marriages. Though I longed to return to New Orleans on a daily bases, I must admit my move was one of the best decisions made for me. I am a college graduate; I was a successful entrepreneur. I coowned a soul food restaurant and catering company in Minnesota for 12 years. I developed the talent of creating custom cakes after the murder of my beloved cousin Melvin Paul. He survived Katrina only to go to Minneapolis six months later to be murdered over a parking spot dispute. But with the challenge of creating a simple wedding cake, I was able to find healing. I created the House of Cakes in honor of him. Minnesota life had me pretty materialistic. I worked to the point I do not remember much, but work and handing my children love money. I thought by having the big house on the hill, a husband, having a family, the ultimate provider and being involved in all things that matter, plus having the funds to match would cure me of what I was told was a generational curse of lack of everything from money, love to even self-love. But for the most part, that life poisoned my heart and soul. I was blinded by visions fed to me by the media. I was told I wasn't anything unless I was better than the Jones's. I lived being ok with a broken, bleeding heart. Life like this did not exist in my family while living in New Orleans from what I viewed with my eyes and soul. We may not have had all the things I acquired over the years, but we were happy, we were together. Family outside of New Orleans wasn't family anymore. We lived separate lives and had awkward moments when we bumped into each other in public. I hated living in Minnesota even though life their helped me in so many ways. I felt deep down the only way to repair it was to get back to my roots, my soul, my home, myself, my New Orleans. I'm here, and I love it. Even being in the so-called Blighted Area of New Orleans and not having all the financial and material security, I'm happy. I am determined that She, yes, New Orleans is a woman is just like me; together, we will overcome and will rise from all that tried to kill our spirit. Nothing like starting from the bottom and making your way back up!. I just know in my heart that New Orleans will provide for me. There's a bank account with funds in it owed to me by way of back pay for my ancestors. And I will receive my inheritance, and I will continue the traditions and customs of the old to keep the heartbeat of New Orleans beating. I'm down in the boot, living the life that feels right to me awaiting my destiny...

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