New Brunswick, NJ – A special workshop helped a group of justice system-involved youth of diverse backgrounds appreciate their differences while also understanding how their cultures connect. The young people are 14-17 year-olds in New Brunswick Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc.’s Disposition; Community Re-integration Services; and Diversion Community Engagement and Support programs.
The YAP participants, who represent several African-American, Central American and Caribbean backgrounds, took part in an interactive Bomba workshop.
Bomba is traditional Afro-Puerto Rican performance art form that includes music and dance. It originated 400 years ago in Puerto Rico, when Spanish slave traders brought African people from many tribes and forced them to work in sugar plantations. Bomba was a way for the enslaved people to communicate, despite their language differences.
The YAP Bomba workshop offered program participants an opportunity to learn, share and see their own cultural connectedness. The workshop was developed by YAP Diversion Community Engagement and Support Program (DCESP) Coordinator, Isnard Mir-Merced, as part of a peace building exercise.
“The workshop included an educational presentation covering the origins of the musical style and interconnections between the Caribbean and the US cultures” said New Brunswick YAP Program Director Rebecca Escobar. “In addition, the youth were able to play drums, sing and dance.”
The New Brunswick YAP staff are planning to host an intergenerational Bomba workshop that will include program participants’ parents.
An alternative to out-of-home placement, YAP matches youth with paid mentor-Advocates who live in the same neighborhoods as the families the nonprofit serves. These Advocates help YAP youth identify their individual strengths and working with them, empower them by helping them build individual toolkits with resources they need to succeed in school and life. Meantime, YAP also works with the youths’ family members to help them identify their strengths and the tools they need to ensure that there’s a sound foundation for them and their children for years to come.
YAP operates in 23 states and the District of Columbia and is creating innovative pilot programs related to system change, racial and social justice and its Safely Home Campaign, a nationwide movement to safely care for all youth and young adults in their home communities and with their families by reducing and preventing unnecessary out-of-home placements and creating safer, more supportive communities for at-risk young people. YAP is also addressing growing community needs such as families dealing with addiction, youth aging out of foster care and youth impacted by sex trafficking.