“Why is there poverty in the same country that is also called the most obese country in the world? I say, “because it’s no longer one for all and all for one.” It’s all about “me, myself and I!” We need to stop oppressing each other and start practicing Ubuntu(OO-BOON-TOO), which is an South African word that means “I am because we are.” When one of us suffers then we all suffer. I often wonder, “how can poor people continue to stand?” I figured out that the reason that they can continue to stand is because they have faith that the universe is always on the side of justice!” No matter how empty their bellies are, they never let their hearts get empty. Love deep and remember Ubuntu.”

Short powerful narratives like the one you read above, written by 22 year old Briana O’Neal, were written and performed by 21 talented youth from four youth programs throughout the New Orleans community at our Oppression Fashion Show at The Joan Mitchell Center on Saturday Dec. 1, 2012 from 6-8:30pm. Briana is a youth involved in The American Friends Service Committee’s Peace by Piece program and her story discusses one of our 3 fashion show themes, poverty. Her story accompanied her self made t-shirt design as she ripped the runway at our Oppression Fashion Show.

The Oppression Fashion Show was organized by The American Friends Service Committee’s Peace Community Activist, Ahmane’ Glover in partnership with The Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies(IWES), A Desire for Change and NOPLAY GED program.  The Oppression Fashion Show was designed as a social justice arts initiative that used fashion design to discuss the connections between poverty, violence and poor education systems locally and globally.  Each youth participant was given the task of "redesigning the white tee," a fashion trend that is often associated with negativity, with positive social justice focused messages and creating full outfits that told the stories of our youth on each of the three topics.

We also showcased a variety of youth talent through 6 social justice themed youth performances and 3 digital stories about sexual education/AIDS awareness created by The Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies(IWES) Map Program. The youth performances showcased  11 youth doing rap and dance combinations about violence, a inspirational mime dance routine asking youth to “encourage yourself,” 1 rap performance about claiming your life to do something positive, and 1 youth saxophonist supported by the “Gig Fund.”  The 3 digital stories presented by IWES were about AIDS education, sexual education in schools, and sexual health.

This program organized participants ages 12-24 from several different programs in "Designing Our Freedom.” Those youth programs were: the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies’ MAP Program, The American Friends Service Committee Peace by Piece program, NOPLAY GED Program, A Desire for Change, The Starlettes and students from  Loyola, DIllard and Xavier Universities.