Your Time for Creative Empowerment, Inc. Self-Empowering Workshop at Molloy College July 8, 2017 – An account Submitted by Mrs. Sandra Morris-Aarons, a Your Time For Creative Empowerment, Inc. Parent
“This morning I woke up early reflecting on my time spent yesterday at the Self-Empowering Workshop. It was a super fabulous day from beginning to the end. Yesterday, I woke up early to the sound of a text message coming through. When I opened the text, it was a message from my husband saying that he was mandated to work an additional shift. I began to wonder what I was going to do because I had invited quite a few young people to the workshop and was depending on the van my husband drove to work for transportation. I had told students that I would come and pick them up from their house at a certain time. All of a sudden, I heard talking downstairs in my house coming from the living room. I called down to find out who it was. Then a voice answered and said, “It’s me, Mrs. Aarons. I came over late last night because I wanted to make sure I was here on time. Last year was great and I was not going to miss this year for nothing.” I heard other voices, and when I inquired as to whose voices they were, it was all the other young people from my neighborhood that I had invited.
I was so happy that they were eager to attend, and had made their way to my house, so now I didn’t have to worry about picking them up. As I got ready and made my way down the stairs, my son was ready with keys in hand. I didn’t even have to ask him to drive. He was excited and ready to go. “Right quick”, I started doing the math in my head – one car; eight bodies. How were we all going to fit? I really felt bad about turning anyone away. So, I decided to call a cab. I was told it would be $65.00 one way. The cab arrived shortly and took some of us while the others drove with my son. Upon arriving at our destination, the cabdriver said, “that will be $75.00.” I was dumbfounded, but I tell you that was the best $75.00 I have ever spent. IF I had to, I would do it all over again.
The workshop started out with a continental breakfast and time to mingle. After that we were summoned to attention by Mrs. Madona Cole-Lacy with Sounds of Inspiration by Willie-Joe Hatcher a drummer to which we were invited to “creatively express” ourselves as part of a warm-up exercise. This young man spoke later during the day at the panel
discussion about never giving up on your dreams. He expressed how he is only 19 and has had 13 surgeries in his short life, but that does not stop him, and that he is more determined than ever to succeed!
After that, a wonderful welcome was given by the phenomenal Mrs. Madona Cole-Lacy who moderated the day. Then she introduced the Keynote, Speaker, April Montgomery, Esq. County Assistant District Attorney. She took us on her journey, and enlightened us with her experience, wisdom and aspirations.
Several speakers spoke throughout the day about their journey and the intricate steps it took to get them to where they are today. Next, we were introduced to Mrs. Joy Spruill, a former NYC Police Officer and Art Therapist. She spoke passionately about her journey and the life of a police officer. She also spoke about the multiple careers that can be pursued in the police department. For example, if you are an artist, you can become a forensic sketch artist.
You do not just have to be a police officer who patrols the streets. On top of that, she gave advice about smart police encounters and demonstrated, especially for our young black men and women, what to do when stopped by a police officer too.
She modeled tone of voice and body language that is acceptable to use that does not come off as being confrontational. She reminded us that police officers are human beings too, and that there are so many good ones with good intentions in comparison to the few that are not.
She told us that one of the most important things to keep in mind is that just as we want to get home safely, police officers do too. Every presenter left us amazed, thinking and empowered, especially Steven Vasquez – a young man who spoke to our hearts about overcoming language and cultural barriers. Steven, a 2017 Hicksville High School graduate, made us examine ourselves by taking a closer look at the life we are living. Are we truly doing our best to achieve and be successful? He brought us to moments of tears of sadness and joy, and stirred our souls as he took us on his journey in America as an asylum petitioner at the age of 16. He spoke about what his mother went through having him at the age of 14, and how she had to work for minimum wage to take care of him in her country, but when she came to this country, she was uneducated and didn’t speak the language which became a problem in getting a job. So, at an early age, he would have to work and take care of his family. When most children would go home to play, eat, do homework and watch TV, he would have to go to work and still manage to do homework.
He spoke relentlessly about how when he came to this country, he had difficulties with the language and in the space of one year, because of his eagerness to learn, he was very successful in learning to speak the English language, and from then till his 2017 High school graduation, he has maintained an A average in school. He spoke about how as an immigrant you are stereotyped and looked upon in a negative way, and that there are various names used to define you. For example; thief, rapist, drug lord etc., which is not the case. He stated, “All immigrants want to do is to come to this country, go to school, work just like anyone else, be a law-abiding citizen, love thy neighbor and have a piece of the American dream by working hard and owning a home.” He spoke about the freedom to get financial aid and go to college, but because of immigration laws that prevent the undocumented immigrants from that freedom, it makes life even harder. He spoke about his plight as an immigrant seeking justice and advocacy for rights of all immigrants. As he cried through his journey we could visualize his experiences, feel his pain and see his determination. He spoke about the golden opportunity we are given as non-immigrants and inspired us to take every opportunity of it.