Social Justice through Art

After witnessing how my childhood neighborhood, Dorchester, has been impacted by forms of structural violence like sparse access to healthy foods due to income and resources, unfair treatment by police, and sub-par health care, I searched in the greater Boston area for ways to take action that either directly and subtly combat these injustices. 

I discovered the B-SAFE program, whose cores values of making participants “Feel Safe, Feel Big, and Feel Connected” are something that I feel proud to stand behind. 

This summer, my role as the Arts Specialist at two of six sites at which the program operates has allowed me to work with young people of various age groups in grades 1-8.

The Arts curriculum has a social justice theme every year and this year, I chose topics that I felt were particularly relevant to 2017 – climate change and diverse media representation. 

Each week, we discussed an aspect of these complex issues of concern and then employed different art mediums to craft projects about them. My hope was to get students thinking about how they can combine their creativity and passion for making the world a better place.

During Week 3 of the program, the younger students in the LEARN program created posters about climate change in efforts to raise more awareness in their communities about the effects of climate injustice. We previously examined how animals and their environments are transforming as well as how fall leave colors are being affected by changing temperatures. We sketched, painted, and crafted portraits of these natural communities and leaves. In the final weeks of the YLC program, the middle schoolers designed comic strips which centered characters that looked like them, with a focus on seeing justice in areas where injustice was present. One student chose to center her comic strip on LGBT discrimination; her main character fought injustices with an open mind and heart. We then used a silk screen printing technique to make t-shirts for our characters’ costumes. Her t-shirt was bright and full of color. 

As programming comes to an end, students are walking away better prepared to return to school in the fall, having faced both old and new experiences, all while finding joy and support in the lasting relationships that were built here at SSYP this summer!

By Christian Cruz, Art Specialist

Christian is a rising sophomore at Columbia University studying Political Science and Urban Studies. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he plans on pursuing a graduate law degree. He is an activist, avid photographer, and amateur cook. He can whip up a mean chicken parm and take your next Instagram photo!