Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Viche' Thomas re-joins the PV team!

They always told me I would be back… I guess they were right.

My name is Viche’ Thomas and in the summer of 2012 I started out as an intern for the summer youth employment program, Develop Your Voice and Speak (DYVAS), as a co-facilitator. Growing up, I was mostly seen as the “good child”, whom people didn’t have to worry about because I was really quiet and got good grades but secretly, I was dealing with a lot of issues around my sense of self but felt like I had no one to confide in.                           
Before interning at Powerful Voices, I had just recently began to love myself for the first time, had transferred to UW, and was having a hard time finding a community. After interning at Powerful Voices, I remember feeling a sense of relief, healing, and empowerment like no other. I was more than excited when they decided to offer me further employment and I was able to co-facilitate two more programs. My time at Powerful Voices was empowering and helped me gain my confidence as a black female. Thriving from this new found confidence, I left Powerful Voices to study abroad in Ghana, West Africa in the summer of 2014, to focus on identity. While in Ghana, I had the experience of sitting in the actual dungeons where slaves once sat and since then have found myself more prideful and knowledgeable in my culture and overall identity.

This summer I will be working at Powerful Voices as a Temporary Program Assistant, supporting and co-facilitating the summer employment program DYVAS, with Yecelica Valdivia. I recently just graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Sociology and will be starting off my career as an Academic Counselor for Rainier Scholars in the fall. During my time with DYVAS, I will be co-facilitating group discussions around various forms of oppression as well as helping the girls create a group zine using poetry and other forms of their creative artwork to then share with the community. As a minority myself, I am extremely passionate about empowering youth of color and am super excited to be back at Powerful Voices this summer. The picture below is me getting ready to perform interpretive dance at UW’s Black Anthology event.

Viche' Thomas

Yecelica Jaime Valdivia joins the PV team!

“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”   ~ Mexican proverb

I’m excited to be joining Powerful Voices (PVs) awesome Staff as their Employment Coordinator. As PV’s Employment Coordinator I’ll be overseeing our employment opportunities for young folks who identify as girls/women who are a part of the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. 

Young folks build a positive and supportive culture together, build social justice analysis, and work collaboratively on various social justice projects such as our annual youth-led social justice conference, Girlvolution, or a zine that showcases their collective and individual writing. This is the heart of our programming, in addition to job readiness skills.  Employment or opportunities like this can be really impactful in a young person’s life. Often young folks don’t have access nor agency of their lives and are often told what to do (or not do) by adults. This pertains to how and where they learn, resource and financial access, emotional, physical, spiritual, mental stability and health, etc. Although adults may have the best intentions, young folks know their own experiences and can, either with or without support and guidance, identify what’s necessary and best for themselves. And sometimes well-meaning adults can actually have a deep impact on young folks’ sense of self, their sense of hope, or sense of future. And for young folks who live in neighborhoods that have fewer resources, unsupportive systems and institutions, and experience structural violence and oppression, sometimes life becomes more about surviving rather than thriving. Young people of color, women and girls, LGBTQ youth, youth from poor and working class experiences, immigrant and refugee youth deserve to thrive. Employment opportunities for young folks is one way we can intervene in systemic violence and support young folks in having just a little more agency, just a little more self-determination.

I was asked to choose a picture to go along with my blog post and something I think about a lot is who/what has shaped me as a young person and as a queer person of color. And every time, I think of Gloria E. AnzaldĂșa. Gloria was a Chicana lesbian feminist, writer, activist who brought women of color voices and work to the forefront of social justice. Reading her work, specifically her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, was a profound and life changing moment in my life. Her words taught me and made sense of my racial identity, my queerness, and experiences growing up as a child of an immigrant father. Its people like this: women, women of color, queer women, who change the world and the ways we see it. People like her make it more possible for us to vision another liberated world.

Yecelica Jaime Valdivia