My name is Christina Nguyen and I am the new Teen Leadership Program and Youth Speaks Seattle Coordinator. I am very humbled to be carrying on the legacy of the past mentors of Youth Speaks and upholding the generation from before and after.
Now, you may be wondering who I am. I have been part of Youth Speaks Seattle for almost four years now. I have seen the program grow from a little seed – when we used to meet guerilla-style at local cafes planning slams to now establishing opportunities for a leadership and social justice institute. We’ve grown from a team of 4 interns to a squad of 15 youth from around the greater Seattle area (also known as Spokes!)
Let’s take a step back and focus our lens back to the beginning, of my journey of how I am related to Youth Speaks Seattle. The beginning of my enlightening journey started in my sophomore honors Language Arts class when two mentors from YSS, Henry Luke and Chelsea Staples, came in to do outreach for a local slam whilst curating a writing workshop. Now, I was one extremely shy youth back in the day but when it came to sharing, an emotional wave took over my mind to stand up and actually share a couple lines from my poem. I felt safe, for the first time in my life in that atmosphere. I felt heard and understood. By the end of the day, I had found my birth of flame that kindled inside of me – a burning desire to actually slam. I went home that day and spilled my toxic thoughts on paper- creating the newest and next three poems that allowed me to win the Harambee slam and get me through to perform at YSS Grand Slam in the later months.
After that experience, I was hooked. Some might say I might have been addicted – not to abusive substances but instead I craved the feeling to use words as healing, learning to question facts and opinions, and most importantly fell hard for one of the most accepting communities I had ever found in my life. I started searching more events to feed the hunger for sharing my words. That was when I found the weekly writing circles. From then on, I showed up weekly. My favorite memories were learning new techniques to approach poetry, cooking ramen/spaghetti in the little kitchen, and seeing the YSS family weekly after a hard week of school.
My love of the Youth Speaks Seattle community grew and bloomed to where I stand to this very day.
Where I stand right now, I am the bridge that connects the future youth coming into the program and the ones who left a legacy. I feel as if I’m the Avatar or Guardian by carrying on legacies I’ve witnessed and add more to the life and journey of YSS ahead until my term is up. Right now, I am thrilled to pave new ways to help deepen the meaning of Youth Speaks among new communities and in addition, I also can’t help but feel tinges of nervousness. But who hasn’t? We are all human.
We are always in the establishment of creating ourselves, enduring shape shifting contradictions, and transformation. In a need to always be thriving to be better and feeling like “never enough.” When really, instead, we should reflect and grow.
Essentially, who we are, why are we doing what we do. We should question our being. We go through life trying to understand how to better ourselves daily, and fear what the future holds. My mindset this year is to not fret and to have no fears. Just take one day at a time. Everyday is always an opportunity to shake it up.
I am highly looking forward to learning new knowledge and spreading knowledge among the people I will meet on this new quest I have ahead. Whilst sharing ways of positive risk-taking and providing tools to accept vulnerability and healing.
One of the philosophies I believe and want to uphold this year regarding art is a quote that goes “an artist is a child who survived.” Since this will be the first year in revamping the program (incorporating music, movement, and spoken word), I want to assist people in “feeding” that young artist or help waken them in this time of rebirth. In addition, I want to bring to conversation that creating art causes humanity to become a more majestic place. To show that it is acceptable to have emotions and validating our feelings from the memories, moments, and experiences we endure daily. We are in dire need of becoming socially awake and holding spaces for communities to survive through these rough times. We need to do so by providing healing mechanisms and essentially share the many stories that we carry with us for these years to come.
Christina Nguyen, AmeriCorps Artist-in-Service: Teen Leadership Program and Youth Speaks Seattle Coordinator