The Belonging Project

Forging paths of connection around equity and inclusion

In this new initiative, small groups of KidSpirit contributors from different backgrounds meet regularly with staff and KidSpirit alumni over a three-month timeframe to get to know each other while actively engaging and reflecting on difficult issues around equity and inclusion. Over time, each cohort co-creates a project of their own design and shares their voices on a subject that is meaningful to them.

Mental Health in Our Communities

By Keesha Joseph, Anahis Luna, Satya Shaw, and Samantha Singh

This inaugural Belonging Project aims to help bring light to mental health and the stigma that surrounds it among the various communities around the world. A team of writers, artists, and podcasters challenge themselves to tackle the subject fully and honestly. They hope to combine their hearts to educate listeners and viewers, and give resources to those struggling with mental health.

Three members of The Belonging Project conducted interviews exploring mental health and stigma with people in their communities, while one editor wrote and recited a poem on the same subject.

Waveform audio sample

by Anahis Luna

"I wanted to get a sense of the gloominess and uncertainty that many of us experienced during the pandemic; to capture, in a portrait, our collective emotions." - Anahis

by Keesha Joseph

Here lies a plethora of contemplations

"I was reminiscing about the old days when I came up with a rough sketch of this piece. I originally didn't plan on making this the final artwork, but once I fully came up with the idea, I gave up my previous outlines and explored this concept. I call it "Salvation," but it refers more to the idea of "self-forgiveness"; in the sense that the only one holding you back is yourself. I wanted to venture in with the belief of 'sometimes we have to get the bad stuff out before we start seeing the good,' and I continued with the piece as it was. Although there were some added changes to the final draft, I think the whole picture of 'self-conflict' really came through." - Keesha

Lament of One for Many
by Satya Shaw

I took on the task of writing a poem
On something that so many people fight
Day in and day out.
Something I am afraid of
Something that grows
And tears away at everything it sees
Something that manipulates

Something that keeps you in bed
Cradles you in its warm arms
And makes you never want to leave.

I thought I had it easy
But each time as my pen went down onto the paper
An idea would form
And crumble away
Into dust

I tried writing about someone else
A character
But that didn’t feel genuine
It felt like an insult
To what I and so many other people
Have struggled with and still struggle with today.
A dishonor to the bravery people show
When hanging by a thread
Over a bottomless pit.

I tried writing about myself
But that felt unfair to all the people
With much bigger monsters looming over them.
I needed to write something
That let people,
The lucky people
Who didn’t know,

Something that

We’re still the same people
We’re still your friends and family
Even if we’re not at our best.
That being said
We’re not broken
We are not here for you to
Do your good deed of the day
We aren’t here for you to fix.

We all want something different.
We all need something to make us feel better.
All you need to do is listen.

But nothing came.

after draft
after draft.
Led to nothing.

I thought maybe
Wait until you’re plunged into the depths.
And I waited
And it came
That surge of panic.
The fear that came with it
Was overwhelming
Every bit as scary as I thought it needed to be
To write what I needed to write.

But the words disintegrated on the paper.
Maybe a reaction to the oxygen.

And so
I did everything I could

But write the poem.

It stilled hovered there
At the back of my mind

Slowly taking form.

Until I couldn’t hold back

The pen came rushing back down onto the paper.

My ideas evolved
Without me thinking

There was no more reaction to the oxygen.
I wrote more than I had

And yet,

I still didn’t know how to convey my message.

All I really wanted was to be understood.
For all of us to be understood.

But I know that it takes more work and effort
To understand someone in pain
Then most people are willing to give.

So I’ll leave you with that.
Take from it what you will.
Leave what you will.
I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here.
Or if I got anything across in a meaningful way.

But this contains my heart and soul.

And I hope it makes a difference.

Keesha Joseph is a junior in high school and hails from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She loves reading and writing both stories and poetry, and considers music her second life. She watches anime whenever she gets the chance, and dreams of traveling to exotic places.

Anahis Luna is a high school senior from Memphis, Tennessee. When she's not stressing over coursework or trying a new paint technique, you can find her obsessing over The Beatles and cookbook recipes.

Satya Shaw is an eighth-grader at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, New York. He loves to read, sing, and hang out with his friends. His dream is to become an actor.

Samantha Singh is an eighth grader who attends Wayzata Central Middle School in Plymouth, Minnesota. She loves to write, read, and design and create STEM-related products to better her community.