In 2024, Avenues for Justice (AFJ) is poised to add more sustainability and longevity to the impact of our HIRE Up program so that our workshop offerings can provide measurable advancements for our Participants. We will continue to focus on Three Pillars: Job Readiness with Certifications, Education and Mental Health. We understand that it is important to look at the progress and success of our Participants, outside of just hard skill development, and not forget the social emotional learning that needs to happen. It is for this very reason that we are expanding our enrichment programming to supplement these three pillars. HIRE Up enrichment programs include college visits, field trips to sporting venues and museums, cooking classes, and art therapy.
In January, AFJ partnered with the New York Junior League (NYJL) for a CHEF cooking series, once a month, alternating between our two community centers. The goal of the workshop is to promote healthy recipes to inspire our Participants to prepare nutritional meals at home using seasonal grocery options.
AFJ is excited to welcome back The Art Therapy Project (TATP) to offer an eight-week art therapy group at both of our community centers in Harlem and the Lower East Side. TATP uses the power of the creative process as a vehicle of healing, communication, self-expression and personal development to help our Participants. The group setting helps Participants “feel connected and inspired while exploring their personal journeys, increasing their self-awareness, and improving their quality of life.”
Since 2019, AFJ has partnered with Wide Rainbow, a free after school art program that connects under-resourced communities in NYC that have limited access to the arts with contemporary artists and museums. In January, we kicked off our 2024 partnership with a trip to the Guggenheim to see Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility with curator Ashley James. Going Dark presented works of art featuring partially obscured or hidden figures. In this artistic context, the common phrase going dark is understood as a tactic whereby artists visually conceal the body to explore a key tension in contemporary society: the desire to be seen and the desire to be hidden from sight.
Occupying the Guggenheim Museum’s iconic rotunda, Going Dark presents more than 100 works by a group of28 artists, the majority of whom are Black and more than half of whom are women. AFJ staff and Participants were joined by AFJ Board member, Danielle O’Bannon. Danielle remarked how “joining the AFJ Participants to experience Going Dark, an exhibition of BIPOC contemporary artists elevating hidden figures, was an enlightening experience. Among the group, aspiring writers and artists reacted to the works and shared their own stories of feeling hidden. It was as though, for some, being among the works allowed them to be seen.”
Since the pandemic, AFJ has partnered with Chef Quie of Charles Pan Fried Chicken to offer the “Cooking With Shirley’s Son” cooking workshop series at our Harlem community center. Chef Quie was recently featured in the new season of Netflix’s “High on Hog”. In 2024, Chef Quie is facilitating a holistic workshop series themed “Family Business”. Set against the backdrop of a cooking series, the workshop carries much more weight by also creating a space for Participants to share conversations in community. Sessions will include a credible messenger and a presentation from a community member. We had our first workshop of the series in January with Chef Quie throwing down some soul food for our Participants.
This year, AFJ Program and Activities Coordinator, Samantha, is coordinating several field trips which will take our Participants to new and exciting spaces across the city. This week, Participants enjoyed a Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors basketball game. Several of our Participants let their Court Advocates know that they had never been to the Barclays Center and were very excited to see celebrities on the jumbotron. We look forward to providing more “first time” experiences for our Participants.
If you would like to partner with Avenues for Justice to provide enrichment programming or help us plan a cultural outing for our Participants, please email Program and Activities Coordinator, Samantha, at email@example.com.