Why Our Work Is Important
1 in 43 children in America has a parent incarcerated. Seventy percent of those children are expected to end up in prison.
The Effects of Mass Incarceration
Our county has a long-standing history of high incarceration rates among minority communities. The statistics and facts are staggering. However how this impacts youth and families are rarely a part of the conversation. Youth Impacted by the incarceration of a loved one are more likely to have the following:
- Cognitive and noncognitive problems
- Relatively low-average performance in school
- Concentration challenges: creating challenges for teachers and schools
Why The Arts
The arts not only enrich our lives, communities and culture, but they are vital to a child’s education. A strong arts education promotes the skills children need to be successful. A growing body of studies presents compelling evidence connecting student learning in the arts to a wide array of academic and social benefits. For example, exposure to art education promotes self-directed learning, improves school attendance and sharpens critical and creative skills. Additionally, research has shown that what students learn in the arts may help them to master other subjects, such as reading, math or social studies. The evidence is clear: study of the arts contributes to student achievement and success in school and beyond.
A Personal Glance
Story of Michael’s Daughter
Ciera Payton knows all too well the impact that the arts have on underserved communities and at-risk youth. Growing up in the third-ward neighborhood of New Orleans, an area riddled with drug trafficking and poverty, Ciera had first hand experience observing her family members battling various drug and alcohol addiction. Her father was a drug dealer which eventually landed him in prison.
Ciera gravitated towards the arts; performing monologues, drawing, and singing her favorite Disney songs. She didn’t realize then that she was using arts as her coping mechanism and that it allowed her to express herself and feel important.
In high school she went to New Orleans Center for Creative Arts a performing arts school, where she was encouraged to use art as a healthy alternative and coping tool. So she chose to do just that which inspired her to pursue a career in acting. Later, Ciera would compile her life experience into a one-woman show titled Michael’s Daughter.
As a teaching artist, she learned that she wasn’t alone in her experience and that many of her students had parents and loved ones behind bars due to drug and alcohol abuse. She saw how the arts programs she taught presented a solution for those students needing art as a way to channel their pain.
So she decided to create the Michael’s Daughter Project; a program that blends her experience as a teaching artist, actor, and writer. By providing programs, services, and charity for kids and adults who have the need to be heard and express themselves, The Michael’s Daughter Foundation is an organization that promotes thriving in our communities. This is why the programs provided by Michael’s Daughter Foundation has remained so successful for years, drawing big audiences, returning participants, and new collaborators.
The Work and How We Make a Difference
The Michael’s Daughter Foundation provides an artistically safe environment during our workshops, summer, and residency sessions. These sessions are meant to keep at-risk youth and families in a creatively engaged space, by allowing them to create original performance and visual art. The work and process helps them become confident, and bold. We uplift and encourage their greatness by promoting a judge-free and emotionally safe environment. Our program creates new hope and new outlooks for the participants’ lives other than what’s presently presented to them.
In the long term, it is our hope that this work continues in their own lives and perhaps the participants can be inspired to pursue their own artistic endeavors and careers. We’ve had many former participants who have been so inspired by our work that they were led to producing works of art.
Five Basic Fundamentals
The work that we do at the Michael’s Daughter Foundation is all about providing tools to our communities so that they may thrive and make a revolutionary shift.
By providing arts-programs, scholarship and emergency funds to youth and families battling the addiction and/or incarceration of a loved one, we are instilling these five basic concepts. It’s is our mission to use those concepts to make a huge impact on our communities and give voice to the voiceless.
When our participants engage in our art-programs they are challenged with the task of speaking up and being seen. Most often when a child has a loved behind bars, their self-esteem and confidence are the first to go. Creating performance pieces originating from their life experiences provides them the very tools that they need to feel validated and seen.
This is the core of our programs and charity here at the Michael’s Daughter Foundation. We believe in having compassion for everyone. We teach this basic fundamental to our participants and grantees by always holding a space and open space for discussion free of judgement.
We aim to teach our participants and grantees to have a sense of integrity in their actions and in the work. Again, with compassion, we can all do some good, all the time and anytime.
Motivation & Encouragement:
Our services are meant to motivate and encourage. We aim to instill in our participants and grantees that they can evolve their current situation and they can aim to pursue their dreams.
It’s important that we help those who come to us to see the importance in not only receiving help but also creating goals and action steps to make change. We track the progress of our participants and grantees on a yearly basis. We always welcome open communication and may at times be able to provide insight and council to help our community become better.
Asbury, Carolyn and Rich, Barbara. Learning, Arts and the Brain: The Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition. Dana Press, New York, NY: 2008.
Deasy, Richard J. Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development. Arts Education Partnership. Washington, D.C.: 2002.
“2010 Final Report, The Role of the Arts in Educating America for Great Leadership and Economic Strength. Americans for the Arts: National Arts Policy Roundtable. Washington, D.C.: 2011
Mass Incarceration and Children’s Outcomes; Criminal Justice Policy Is Education Policy.
Report By Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein.:2016
Arts For Life Website. Mrs. Columbia Bush. 2018