After witnessing the violence against George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, three friends from the south Bronx felt compelled to do something meaningful.
Ursula Mensah, Xzeina Phillpotts and Akudo Nora Duruajonuma, all juniors at the Bronx Health Sciences High School, recently launched a youth program, R.R.G., (Reality, Race Inequalities and Gender Discrimination) to create a safe space for other youth to talk about certain situations that go on around the world.
“People tend to think that teenagers don’t care about anything else, all we do is be on social media, which is not a complete lie, but that’s not all we care about,” Duruajonuma said. “The project will also give us the chance to talk about politics, the leaders of our nation and how they are helping the U.S. thrive or sink to the ground. This passion project will be a challenge due to the circumstances but we are willing to make it work and see it to the end, as long as you all are as well.”
According to Duruajonuma, the teens initially wanted to start a club that had the same topic as this project at their school. But a few weeks ago, the grouped learned about the concept of a passion project through an ad and since then, chose to start one of their own.
They came up with a name and made Gmail and Instagram accounts.
“We didn’t want the idea or willingness of speaking on the things going on to include just a school club,” Duruajonuma said. “We wanted it to be bigger and have some youth and teenagers who might be willing to join. We want to create an environment where everyone is able to freely discuss their opinions.”
The teens had never done anything like this and said they are pursuing it with open eyes and no expectations. They launched the program without help from an adult, but they hope it attracts fellow youth.
Mensah noted that often, kids get in trouble after school and head down the wrong path. The hope is that project gives some people an outlet to express things they can’t at home or with friends.
“We wanted to start our own club,” she said. “We wanted to include everyone. I wanted to create a space where kids, instead of hanging out with the bad crowds, can come here and talk about what’s going on [in] life.”
Duruajonuma explained the trio had experienced isolation or the feeling of not being wanted or appreciated for who they are.
“We don’t know if we are the ideal 4.0 GPA students that colleges are after, but we have a passion for getting teenagers together in a safe space to speak on any topic including racism, hate towards the LGBTQ community, gender discrimination and many other topics that are still not spoken about freely today, especially in the education system,” Duruajonuma said.
As the website just launched in the beginning of September, the girls are trying to get the word out. So far only a few people have signed up. It will meet virtually due to COVID-19.
“If we keep going, we will attract more teenagers,” Mensah said. “We’re all nice people. We will accept anyone.”