Gabriel Cortez And Natasha Huey (2013)
The Write Home Project
To be homeless in the US is to be a member of a population with few advocates and progressively fewer resources. In the face of the rapidly increasing criminalization of homeless people, Berkeley-based humanitarian organizations like the Suitcase Clinic work hard to provide basic needs, food and shelter, for their clients. However, it is clear that this is not enough. Gabriel and Natasha envision the transformation of shelters and clinics into spaces that better facilitate the expression of voice and positive human connection and that foster dialogue, empathy and understanding between homeless and local populations. They view the creation of creative spaces as critical to altering the life trajectories of people, especially youth, experiencing homelessness. Their project will use weekly poetry writing workshops and monthly open mics to create better spaces for serving the holistic well-being of the homeless youth population. Their project will also utilize a multimedia campaign and a culminating performance that will call into question the dominant discourse around homelessness and inspire dialogue about the larger issues contributing to it. Their goal is to create spaces that are consistent, accessible, and healing. Natasha and Gabriel want their participants to think of themselves as writers and community members, and to come to recognize the power in their own hands.
To follow Gabriel and Natasha’s project, please see their facebook page. You can view videos from the Write Home project here.
Gabriel is the son of a Panamanian mother and a dreamer from Chicago. He was born in Kansas and raised in Maryland, Virginia, Los Angeles and now Berkeley. When not hunched over a writing pad or a computer screen, he enjoys runs in the wilderness, adopting abandoned things and teaching the little that he knows in workshops and other community spaces. Gabriel is an advocate for the transformative powers of arts in education, especially for underprivileged and marginalized youth. Since 2008, he has worked alongside a number of organizations, including the Flourish Foundation, Get Lit, Youth Speaks and College Track, working to utilize spoken word poetry as a tool for acknowledging and empowering youth voice and literacies. At UC Berkeley, Natasha majored in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Language, Power, and Identity and minored in Creative Writing. Her senior thesis was titled, Performing Race and Racism: An Exploration of Mock Languages. At Cal, Natasha was the Co-Director of UC Berkeleys spoken word poetry organization, CalSLAM, the Student Coordinator for Other Voices, a Resident Assistant and Program Assistant, a Workshop Leader and Individual Tutor at the Student Learning Center, the co-founder and co-facilitator of the Slam DeCal with Gabriel Cortez, a FemSex facilitator, a Student Teacher Poet for Poetry for the People, and more. As a Youth Poet Mentor for Youth Speaks, Natasha has had the honor of performing poetry and facilitating writing workshops for youth across the Bay Area. Natasha believes in the critical importance of arts and education to empower youth voice and help us all make sense of our experiences. When Natasha is not organizing or attending poetry events or reading or writing poetry, she is probably sleeping.