Alysa is an amazing student from Endeavor Academy who has worked through issues of self-esteem and body image in the Phoenix Rising workshops. Halfway through the workshop series, she came up to a facilitator after class and said she had an idea for an incredible performance piece, and wanted to perform it for her classmates. Alysa was the guest artist for her workshop this past week, and she dazzled the room with her inspiring poem and her radiant beauty – with AND without makeup. We love and honor our youths’ powerful voices!
Youth Poems, Adult Poems, More Poems…
3-minute poem by Savannah Arterburn
I get that you just want to impress
and not admit that you’re a mess.
I know ‘cause I can see the tears your soul disappears.
Beauty’s pain and beauty’s in everything
but we are just here to learn—
don’t forget to breathe.
If need be lean on me
and don’t forget what makes you, you.
It’s crazy but you don’t have to know exactly who you are
your friends will help with that part.
Feeling unnoticed is how you go
and it hurts ‘cause we all know.
You’re not alone with all your pain
forget the world just whip it all away.
You deserve it ‘cause it’s not about the surface
yes, you’re still perfect and always worth it.
So let me be your mirror so you can see a little clearer.
‘Cause you’re beautiful and you don’t even know.
People take one look at me
And mug me or say something smart
They judge me off of my exterior
Not knowing who I am
And what I’m really about
After getting to know me
I become someone
They will never want to let go
I want to know where I am going to take my children
And how we will get there
I want to know why there are so many
Sick twisted funkin’ nasty ass people
Who hurt others
I want to know why parents bail on their children
I want to know why God hasn’t allowed me to be taken
The many times I could have been
I want to know why I never got to know my father
And why he even left
I am ME!
I am Chantel
I don’t give a fuck about all the he says she say bullshit
Because I am not only a wonderful mother
But I am an awesome parent
I am the future for my children and their children
I am who I want to be
I will not let my past define me
Because I no longer live there
I am here today and will do the best
And give better to my children
Love is the red flames of a burning fire
Intensifying as time goes on
Love is the sound of a bird chirping in the rise of a morning
Awakening to a new reality
Inviting you to experience something new
Love is the smell of roses
Subtle yet strong and powerful enough to brighten your day after smelling
Love tastes like an apple
It can sometimes be bitter, but usually sweet
It is an essential nutrient to life
Love feels like a warm hug
It fills you with happiness to the touch
Love moves like the blood through the veins in your body
Fueling every part of you and pushing you through life
What is Success?
What is success?
Is it the big mansion and the shiny sports cars?
Is it the millions in the bank and the shirt and tie?
Or is it finding yourself?
Is it reaching a goal that you long struggled for?
Is it doing what you want without caring about what others will say?
Breaking the barrier of society that wants you to
Walk a fine line without stepping out.
A line set by the followers and not the leaders.
Success is being the owner of your thoughts and values
Which you guard with your sharp sword,
Without letting society push you to fit in.
Spotlight: Interview with Hibaq Osman, Youth Extraordinaire
I sat before a singular young lady. In fact I’d heard so many facilitators speak wonders about Hibaq, her presence made me nervous. We met at a coffee shop near her home in East Denver and quickly covered the basics. Hibaq is a 17 year old who not only exudes confidence but a strong sense of self. She informed me she attends Compassion Road Academy, an alternative school. Hibaq didn’t flinch when she told me she’d been kicked out of her former High School in 2014. Later, I would understand Art from Ashes taught her no flinching is necessary.
Hibaq became involved with Art from Ashes (AfA) in April 2015 after enrolling for the Phoenix Rising workshops at Compassion Road. “The Spoken Word workshop just seemed cool!” she said. Hibaq related she grew quite enamored with the program and the facilitators. Ashley was the lead facilitator for the workshop, and Franklin was there when Ashley wasn’t. Hibaq went on about how she loved everyone at Art from Ashes; Johnny, Morgan, Catherine, and so many other names I couldn’t keep up. She stated Franklin has turned her on to Yoga. He encourages her to kick off her shoes and do spontaneous yoga stretches at the mention of a rough day. Hibaq stated Angela, another AfA facilitator, is currently coaching her on memorizing her poems. These are the people who helped her see what she was capable of accomplishing—who helped her see her full potential. Hibaq added she also has made a lot of friends her own age through AfA.
Hibaq unwaveringly continued telling me about her story. She said she has been in and out of treatment facilities for the past THREE YEARS. I tiptoed around sensitive issues but she, on the other hand, stood tall and told the truth. She is a recovering drug addict: cocaine, molly, acid, everything but what she referred to as “the hard stuff.” She would develop mental disorders due to her drug use as well as engage in self-harming behavior. I jotted down that she had been exceptionally abused by her uncle from the age of 4. Immediately after I wrote that, Hibaq noticed and corrected me: “sexually abused, not exceptionally abused.”
I was perplexed at her nonchalant demeanor. For a second I wondered how this SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD was so strong, so confident, so solid in her speech, and stature. She went on to explain that AfA was a major part in helping her see herself as a person.
“Art from Ashes made me feel like I could say things and be heard, as well as be happy without being high. I feel like my opinion is heard; like I matter.” AfA offers Hibaq guidance and shows her there are people who actually and genuinely care. Hibaq explained the program not only provides her with a support system but also offers a powerful coping tool: WRITING. Hibaq has always liked to write but wasn’t inclined to do so on a daily basis until she became involved with the agency.
“I turn to writing and everything feels better.”
Hibaq is compelled to use a pen rather than drugs these days. She told me AfA provides free journals to participants, and she fills them so quickly she requests one about every other week. She jokingly stated she was going to bankrupt the program because she writes all the time now. Hibaq writes about eating disorders, human rights, her traumatic past, drug addiction, self-harming behavior, women’s rights, unhealthy relationships, and just about anything she has an opinion on. She told me she is passionate about art, music, poetry, self-awareness, the universe, and what is going on in the world, and she attributes her self-awareness to what she’s learned at AfA. Hibaq touched on the writing prompts used and stated, “The brain is 2-dimensional but thoughts can be multi-dimensional. The concepts your brain comes up with are completely insane! The prompts trigger your brain, and have the power to change your perspective on things.”
Hibaq also worked for AfA as an intern from June to December of 2015. Her therapist let her know about the Governor’s Summer Program, which offers an opportunity to be employed and stay out of trouble for youth with criminal charges. AfA, in conjunction with the state-funded Governor’s Summer Program, made this possible. Hibaq enjoyed working for AfA, and said she is glad she was able to do so even through her recent relapse which saw her in rehab once again, because the people at AfA were there to support her recovery. Hibaq’s employment program with AfA has ended, but she still remains actively involved in the program.
Catherine O’Neill Thorn, Art from Ashes Executive Director, recently asked Hibaq to be a guest poet for the workshops as well as train to be a facilitator. Hibaq is exceptionally excited about being a facilitator because as she put it, she looks up to the facilitators, so to be one is something she has only dreamed of. Hibaq is also looking forward to joining the Board of Directors as a Youth Representative. Through this role she would be giving her opinion on behalf of the youth as it relates to the agency’s mission. Remember, this is a 17 year old we are talking about!
I recently saw Hibaq’s memorable performance at AfA’s 2015 Colorado Gives Annual Fundraiser where Hibaq, my son, and several other youth fearlessly and openly performed in front of a crowd of about 80 people. Hibaq has also performed for the Denver City Council as a result of being involved with AfA. Hibaq never would have done that if it weren’t for AfA. She explained her family is Somalian. Culturally, women are expected to be meek and quiet. Hibaq stated she used to be shy about her opinions, but today she is compelled to share her views and feels empowered to do so.
The more we conversed I could see that Hibaq could not contain her enthusiasm and spark when she spoke about AfA. She erupted in excitement when she told me about Lily Fangz, a local rapper, who is one of the 30 or so guest poets at AfA. “She gives me hugs and she knows me now!” she said.
I asked Hibaq to describe the program in one word and her response was “EMPOWERING!” Hibaq stated AfA and its people are her EVERYTHING. She concluded, “They touched my heart.”
Hibaq is the true definition of Art from Ashes.
ADDENDUM: Because we met at a coffee shop, it was a public setting. One person asked what we were doing, since we seemed so passionate. We explained and he provided me with a business card and a sincere request for information about the program. Really, this is what Art from Ashes does to people!
Youth in our programs explore many themes, ideas and perspectives in their poetry, art and creative workshopping, and they often have some remarkably profound insights. We thought we would share with you some of the most prevalent themes we see, and some of the beautiful and life-changing discoveries that come with them.
To start, here are some youth poems centered around the idea of appearance.
“I Seem To Be…But Really I Am”
I seem to be a troublemaker
But really I am a peacemaker
I seem to be a failure
But really I am a success story
But really my future is bigger and brighter
Than you think
I seem to be a thug
But really I’m a good kid
I seem to be a Dad
But really I’m a father
I seem to like sports
But really I’m a baller
I seem to be a Raiders fan
But really I’m a Broncos fan
The way the world sees me as an animal
The world sees me as a devil
The world sees me a demon
The world sees me as a devil’s favorite child
The way I see myself is I’m a baller
I see myself as a care giver
I see myself as a successful man
I see myself as a positive guy
I see myself as a positive role model
I seem to be a bitch
But really I am not willing to trust everyone
And let them in
I seem to be white
But really I don’t have color
Because my heart is more than that
I seem to be a mother
But really I am not perfect
Nor is any parent
I seem to be the class clown
But really I am hurting deep down
Most people look in a mirror
And see what they don’t want
Someone who is ugly and disgusting
Like the person who told you what you were
The image holds power and meaning
Interpreted by yourself
Because each reflection is different
Each negative thought is different
But you are different
And that’s what makes you powerful
And that’s why it’s significant
“I don’t get poetry, and I don’t like it,” she said.
The young woman, new to our drop-in poetry and spoken word workshop looked around the group with tears in her eyes. “But I’m here because my best friend loved it, so I’m doing this for her.” Zee shared that her best friend had committed suicide while the two were talking on the phone—and that not only did others blame her for her friend’s death, but she blamed herself, as well.
Weeks passed, and Zee began showing up more regularly. With each workshop, she blossomed a bit more—cracked a small smile, lent a listening ear to another participant, and shared her poetry with the group.
This heartbroken 16-year-old wrote of fear and loss, of determination and misperception, and slowly a light began to flicker within her.
She had stoked the flame of self-discovery, ignited by the safety of a creative space in which to share her struggles and learn of her promise.
Today, Zee throws back her head and laughs along with the others who attend the workshops. She has been here every week for months and has sustained friendships with the drop-in youth who have shared their own stories of triumph, sorrow, and hope. She has performed for the agency at First Friday events and plans to continue to represent our programs in the community.
Even though Zee began coming to Art from Ashes to honor her friend and will always remember that is why she attends, she has embraced her own voice, as well as her creativity and her potential.