August 12, 2008
Every Thursday afternoon the ACE office fills with the sounds of enthusiastic young people. They're participating in the weekly Teen Cafés, hosted by Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project.
The Cafés, which draw an average of 25 teens, offer a space for youth to talk openly about issues that concern them. The agendas are driven by the interests of the youth present. Davel, a fifteen year old summer organizer with REEP, says the café discussions impact the young people who participate. "They're intense, complex and wild," he says, "The youth can talk about all the issues teens have to deal with, like pregnancy, violence and stereotypes. We talked about the N-word once and it was really deep."
While enjoying delicious, hot, free food, youth discuss topics like how to empower teens, music, youth and gang violence, death, respect, drugs, oppression, environmental injustices, and hopes for the future of Roxbury. So far the sessions have been mainly discussion but they hope to include rap, dance, artwork, and other forms of expression. Teen cafés are the first step for youth who are looking to get more involved with REEP and ACE. "It's good because we're out of the streets right now – it keeps us busy," says Tavon, who is also a fifteen year old REEP summer organizer.
According to REEP senior organizer David Noiles, the cafés are a chance for young people to speak their minds. "This can lead to some very heated discussion," David explains, "but it also provides an opportunity for youth to learn respect and consideration through hearing both sides of the story."
The sessions will continue into the school year and are open to any interested youth who want to drop in. Adult ACE supporters may also attend and observe with prior approval from REEP staff. Whatever age you are, please contact David Noiles if you're interested!