Jeunesse 2000 (J2K) animator Eva knows the importance of artistic expression in building youth confidence.
Many youth who come to the J2K drop-in centre have difficult situations going on at home, and need an outlet to express themselves. Unfortunately for many, access to safe, non-judgemental spaces that encourage artistic expression is rare. Providing a quiet place to write, or workshops on how to play musical instruments, is invaluable. It allows youth to build relationships with animators like Eva. “We try and fill a gap in society – it can be hard to talk about certain things with your teacher or parents, and so you end up talking to your friends, but they’re not necessarily the best people or the most informed. Youth really need that in-between, which is why I see myself as a big sister figure.”
For Eva, part of being a big sister means creating safe, non-judgmental spaces that inspire and empower the youth. In early October, she hosted a discussion group on black hair and identity; and this summer, along with other J2K staff and youth, she helped put on Do My Ladies Run This, an all-female music showcase at Shaika Café. For Eva, it was important for the youth to see women, “practicing, singing, and jamming. It showed them that, yes, they belong here, and yes, their art matters.”
But Eva stresses that you don’t have to want to make art or have a topic you want to discuss to come to J2K. In fact, you don’t need to have a reason at all. For youth, just knowing that there’s a place where they can come and hang out if they have nothing to do is really important.