The Lesson: Before this woman was an activist and art curator, she was homeless on the streets of Atlanta. Now, she shares her story of homelessness; how she found healing and comfort through art; and how she uses her organization to help homeless teens overcome adversity with the help of art and hope.
Notable Excerpt: “I realized that most people thought of homelessness as some kind of lazy, drug-induced squalor and inconvenience, but that didn’t represent my book bag full of clothes and schoolbooks, or my A+ grade point average. I would sit on my favorite bench downtown and watch as the hours passed by until I could sneak in a few hours of sleep on couches, in cars, in buildings or in storage units. I, like thousands of other homeless youth, disappeared into the shadows of the city while the whole world kept spinning as if nothing at all had gone terribly wrong. The invisibility alone almost completely broke my spirit. But when I had nothing else, I had the arts, something that didn’t demand material wealth from me in exchange for refuge. A few hours of singing, writing poetry or saving up enough money to disappear into another world at a play kept me going and jolting me back to life when I felt at my lowest. I would go to church services on Wednesday evenings and, desperate for the relief the arts gave me, I would go a few hours early, slip downstairs and into a part of the world where the only thing that mattered was whether or not I could hit the right note in the song I was perfecting that week. I would sing for hours. It gave me so much strength to give myself permission to just block it all out and sing.”
The Guest: Malika Whitley is the art curator and activist behind ChopArt, a multidisciplinary arts company that works with homeless teens to show them all that art has to offer. ChopArt is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with additional programs in Hyderabad, India, and Accra, Ghana, and since their start in 2010, they have served over 40,000 teens worldwide. If you’d like to volunteer, you can check out the organization’s website.
(LISTEN to the inspiring talk below or read the transcript)
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