By Sara Aslagson-Sahar
At 6pm on Wednesday, January 25th, I walked into the Moniker Warehouse on 16th Street. After signing in and filling out a survey, I was given a raffle ticket and was able to enter “The Walk: An Artistic Showcase.” This event was designed to give “a small glimpse into the lives of our youth [between the ages of 16-25] and how mental health affects their lives in positive and negative ways,” and I think it definitely accomplished it’s goal.
The event included a variety of booths to engage with. In the entry way there was a resource board, a sticky note quote image, the opportunity to color shoes –continuing the theme of walking in their shoes–, and food. The quote board allowed you to add different color sticky notes to eventually create a big image of the Urban Beats logo. One of my favorite quotes –though there were many great ones– was:
“If you want to see a taste of greatness, look in the mirror.”
This quote spoke to me because oftentimes the person we have the hardest time seeing greatness in, is ourselves. I believe that everyone is great and this quote is a reminder to see that within myself.
When entering the main room there were many other interactive booths, in addition to the viewing of painted, drawn and other multi-media art. Some of the featured booths included: Stigma Knock ‘Em Down, Self-Care Wall, STD Roulette, Push Pin Poetry, and an Affirmation Station.
Stigma Knock ‘Em Down gave the participant the opportunity to throw positivity balls –squishy balls painted with positive words– at cans labeled with different stigmas. I have to admit, I was reluctant to play at first because I know I am not a good shot and was worried about missing the cans and embarrassing myself. However, Santos put me at ease when he said, “You have as many tries as you want because sometimes that is what it takes to defeat stigma.” I knew then it would be okay if I missed, or didn’t have perfect form, because I could keep trying. I did in fact miss on my first try, but I tried again and was able to knock over both stacks of cans by the time I was done.
Next was the Self-Care Wall where you could see what other people do to practice self care and add your own techniques. Then the STD Roulette wheel where you could test your STD knowledge –such as “what does HPV stand for?” — to win prizes. There was also a giant gummy bear container full of condoms you could take. Then there was the Push Pin Poetry board where you could use papers already written with words, or create your own, and add them to the board to make poems. Some were already up so one girl took “find the unknown mountain and then breathe over” and added again, hurt, and after to create “again find the unknown mountain and then breathe over hurt after.” I myself chose to add “always please” to a corner with nothing else around it.
After that were two pallets with photos strung across them followed by painted records. Across from there was the Affirmation Station where you could take images and glue on quotes. This was a big hit with some of the people I had met at the event and they made about four each between the three of them.
Around the room there were various rows of chairs facing the stage split by tables displaying artwork. The stage was decorated with caution tape and Do Not Enter, Wrong Way, and Yield signs. First to take the stage were the hosts Monique and Tre. They welcomed us to the event, thanked sponsors, and introduced us to the sounds designed to alert us to performers. The sound to alert us that a performance was about to happen was a crosswalks “wait” sound that had been beatboxed. And when performers were complete a beatboxed “walk” noise was played. When the hosts were done talking they played the walk sound and I went to see the Poetry in Motion video, by the Poet Shawene, being projected on the wall.
Soon we were brought back in and Alicia performed her poem about walking a mile in her shoes and living positively. After breaks between each performance the order was Julia, then Autumn, Tre, Santos, and Alex. Julia, Autumn, and Santos all performed poems around the same theme of walking in their shoes with individual twists. Julia’s poem talked a lot about the influence of God in her life. Autumn brought tears to my eyes with her combination of singing and poetry as she told her story. Santos talked about how when you look at him there is a lot you can’t see. Tre’s performance was actually a music video of “I’m Good” by Blaque. Alex, the last performer sang in accompaniment with someone playing an acoustic guitar. It was an enjoyable performance and many people began clapping along.
The event ended with a raffle where there were many, many, many prizes: San Diego Slam Team Chapbook, Jamba Juice gift card, Elf makeup kit, nail polish, McDonald’s gift card, Outside the Lens photo cards and photo workshops, Subway gift cards, Axe kit dark temptations, and an “I hate small talk” T-shirt from a local poet. A different Alex, the Program Coordinator, gave a shout out to the youth and the youth support partners for their hard work over the past 20 weeks. Monique and Tre came back to the stage and closed out the event at 7:55 pm.
Overall, this event was really well done and the thing I noticed the most throughout the whole event was the support and comfort of the people there. Some people were dancing to the music on the side of the room in between acts, others were playing with some of the kids roaming around and helping their parents. Many supported the vulnerability of the artists, whether by paying close attention or snapping or cheering or helping the artists on stage, there was so much support. This was a place where your history only meant what you wanted it to mean and if you were ready to be vulnerable it was okay. No one tried to tell you how you should react, or what you should experience, you just got to be yourself. Whatever that looks like.
I look forward to seeing what events Urban Beats has in the future and I encourage you to attend them as well. It is worth it.