Arts & Humanities: Don't Leave College Without Them

Photograph: 2015 A3C Action Winner, Malika Whitley, speaking. Courtesy Malika Whitley via Wikimedia Commons



written by Leo Caveddagne

​Malika Whitley experienced homelessness as a teenager. At 16, she was part of Atlanta’s 3300 homeless youth. Malika ex- plains the stigmas that society places on homelessness, such as people believing homelessness to be a “lazy, drug-induced squalor and inconvenience.” Malika explained that both her and the rest of the homeless youth had “disappeared into the shadows of the city while the whole world had kept spinning as nothing had gone wrong.” This feeling of invisibility leaves people feeling that they lack value and importance in society. Malika also stated that, “The invisibility alone almost com- pletely broke her spirit.” She said that when she had nothing else, she had the arts. The arts allowed her to “disappear into another world at a play” and this kept her persevering through daily challenges even when she was at her worst. She’d also sing for hours, giving her strength to block out thoughts from her head and just sing. Her passion for the arts caused her to develop an organization called ChopArt, an arts organization for homeless minors that uses arts to help deal with trauma. Malika states, “Often an invisible population used the arts to step into their light.” Malika firmly believes that using art as “an entry point” allows the homeless youth population to heal. With Malika’s story, we have seen art serve as an inspiration to those who have so little. The arts have given the homeless the ability to grasp on to something and allow them to continue moving forward and ultimately being able to overcome the challenge of es- caping homelessness. The arts has transformed people’s attitudes, mindsets, and the ability to overcome barriers they feel restricts them from overcoming life’s challenges. Additionally, in this case, the arts have transformed the way people can cope and overcome trauma that they experience in their lives. ​

Jennifer Nichols is a choreographer, professional dancer, and founder/director of the elite ballet fitness program, The Extension Method™, and Co-Owner of its affiliate surf and dance retreat company, Pointe Break Retreats. She is owner of The Extension Room, a multi-purpose dance and fitness studio in downtown To - ronto. Her method was founded in 2003 and its acclaim and exposure has spread throughout Toronto and across Canada. Jennifer has applied the Extension Method™ to elite sport, working for several years with Synchro Ontario and Synchro Canada, as well as the Granite Club synchro and figure skating clubs. In addition to acting as the home of Jennifer’s ballet fitness program, The Extension Room presents new works of dance, opera, art song and classical music, and offers affordable space to artists for creation.


Arts & Humanities

Don’t Leave College Without Them


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