Somerville’s designated Peace Month, “Giving Back to the ‘Ville, Voices of the Seven Hills” will kick off on Saturday with a night of spoken word, poetry, and theatrics hosted by Teen Empowerment.
Jaime Lederer, the director of Somerville Programs, said this is the youth organization’s seventh year participating in peace activities. She said that this year, with all of the positive and negative changes and attitudes in society, Teen Empowerment joined forces with the City of Somerville and other partners to use the month of April to focus on peace. Their show, “Late Nite with Teen Empowerment,” will be the first in a series of events and workshops addressing issues in the community.
“We believe in Teen Empowerment that youth have a voice and have the power to be part of change efforts, to address [needed] changes in the community. We hire teens—youth organizers—to address these issues,” Lederer said. “Youth have power, youth have a voice, and they can be part of the effort to make Somerville a better place to work, live and play.”
At “Late Nite with Teen Empowerment,” over 20 youth will perform about issues facing Somerville youth through song, spoken word, poetry and theatrical scenes. The main themes that will be addressed include bullying, mental health, drug use and its affect on family/community and media influences, particularly pop music.
Matthew Sousa, an eighth grader at Winter Hill Community School and a Teen Empowerment Youth Organizer, will be acting in a skit about bullying. In the skit, he plays Tommy, a friend of a bullying victim who encourages the victim to seek help when the bullying becomes unbearable.
Sousa said the skit resonated with him on a personal level. A classmate bullied him consistently from second grade to the beginning of eight grade, and he feels his skit is important for the audience to watch. He said his bullying situation only came to a stop when he sought help a few months ago, and that he was the only one who could stand up and say something.
“I play the friend of the victim [in the skit] because I already know what it feels like to be the victim,” Sousa said. “I felt so relieved [when the bullying stopped] and all of the emotions I was feeling—depressed, upset, mad, sad, all of those emotions—were gone.”
He continued to say that it is important for people to understand that bullying still happens, and that it is happening in Somerville. He said he hopes that awareness will continue to spread so bullying can come to an end.
Stephanie Santiago, a senior at Somerville High School, said she thinks the overall theme of “Late Nite with Teen Empowerment” is self-power. She said that as a youth facing so many different issues, the only thing to do is take a stand.
“We’re empowered. You as a person, it doesn’t matter if you’re a teen or a child, you’re empowered and you have to stand up for yourself,” Santiago said. “[Teens] make the joke, YOLO, and we’re like, ‘Yeah, you only live once, but do it the right way.’ Make a change while you are living.”
Sophina Clough, a sophomore at Somerville High School, said she went to the peace show last year and she was shocked by the amazing performers. She said the best part is that students share real stories about their lives and situations, and that it helped her understand that teens have a lot in common.
“My jaw literally dropped,” Clough said. “It was so good because people spoke about their own personal experiences. It helps you realize what that person has been through. When I saw somebody on stage, I was like, ‘Wow, she went through that?’ I would’ve never known.”
Lederer said that it is important for the community to not only accept youth, but to invite them into the conversation. She said they are part of Somerville, and they have great ideas and a lot to offer if given the opportunity.
“Somerville is a changing a community, and a lot of the positive changes have been a result of our work. But there’s still a lot of issues that young people face,” Lederer said. “Youth are a part of the community and we need to make sure we come together and hear their voices too.”
Late Nite with Teen Empowerment will begin at 7:30 p.m. at The Somerville Theatre on Saturday night. Tickets are $2 in advance and $3 at the door. Visit Somerville Peace Month’s Facebook page for more information about upcoming events.
Teen Empowerment is a nonprofit organization that hires youth ages 14-21 to address issues in the community and promote change. They do this through organizing community events, attending citywide meetings and developing leadership skills. Teen Empowerment partnered with 20 businesses and departments —including Groundwork Somerville, Books of Hope, Somerville Public Library and Somerville Public Schools—to create Somerville’s Peace Month 2013.