Charlotte, N.C. – Some moms of Mecklenburg County Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. program participants showed up for a relaxing evening — painting, sipping cider, and enjoying a pre-Thanksgiving meal.
Hosted by Mecklenburg County YAP’s Youth Justice program, Paint and Chill, was sponsored by LISC Charlotte, a community development organization making economic equality a reality for all Charlotteans.
YAP is a 47-year old non-profit that is located in 33 states and the District of Columbia that provides community-based services as a more effective and racially equitable alternative to youth incarceration and congregate residential care. The Youth Justice program is a partnership with the court system, which refers participants to YAP. Each young person is assigned a neighborhood-based YAP Advocate who champions for them and their families, guiding them to achieve positive outcomes.
“My son was having some trouble in school and outside of school,” said Q Henderson, whose 15 year-old son is in the youth justice program. “I was directed to YAP to help him make some better decisions. He’s a lot better than when he started out. This was his first year of high school and it was a little rough for him but when he got some outside resources it kind of really help to reel him back in a little bit.”
Henderson said YAP Advocate Jahwan Edwards has taught her son a lot of things from a male perspective that she isn’t able to.
“My son knows that Jahwan focuses personally on him during their one-on-one time,” Henderson said, adding that he’s taken him to the gym, out to eat and to meet other young men his age.
YAP Program Coordinator Makita Gordon put the Paint and Chill event together to celebrate moms whose children are making progress as YAP Youth Justice Program participants.
“You forget about yourself, especially when you’re a mom, because it’s all about the kids. I just wanted to create something that was all about the moms.,” she said.
Gordon, who interacts with the parents and guardians of the program participants at intake and follows up with them weekly to access their needs, said she chose a Paint and Chill affair because it has personally helped her relief stress in the past and she wanted to introduce the parents to something that they might not have been exposed to before.
“The moms are the ones who are in court, they are the ones who have to keep up with all these programs, deal with people visiting in-and-out of their homes, and the moms forget about their own self-care because either their child is locked up or they’re worried about them being locked up or they’re in the streets and worried about whether or not they’re going to survive,” Gordon said.
Gordon enlisted the help of Tanzania Stewart of Creative Society to help guide the moms in painting.
“Painting is a stress reliever because you put all your stress on that canvass, turn on some music and it just takes you away,” Stewart said. “You get wrapped up in your picture. The best part is that people don’t have to follow my color pattern, they can do their own thing.”
Gordon hopes to hold a Paint and Chill, for program participants next.
“Painting is like a coping mechanism in a sense because I’ve been through some things in my life,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t until I did a paint and sip that I found out what painting could do for me. I don’t know how to paint, draw or any of that, but when I went and did it, it just gave me so much confidence. It really brings assurance to feel like you accomplish something through art.”
The event took place at YAP’s Charlotte office on Beatties Ford Road.