The South Philly-based youth education program honors Mexican Christmas customs.
Collecting on South 9th Street, a crowd of men, women and children approached Mighty Writers El Futuro, reciting poetry in Spanish to the facade of the building.
On the other side of the closed door, individuals responded to their requests for entrance using song. While reluctant at first, the occupants eventually welcomed the visitors inside.
Honoring a traditional Latin American holiday celebration, the performance was the South Philly organization’s first Posada festivity — a Mexican-practiced reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s quest for shelter in the hours leading up to the birth of Christ.
While Mighty Writers was founded upon a mission to teach children reading and writing skills, its purpose spills past pen and paper, striving to embrace not only the schooling but the cultures of local youth.
“I know that we have to teach the technical stuff,” said Mario Meza, program manager at Mighty Writers El Futuro. “But for us, it’s more important to think with clarity, and to put that in words…We give them vocabulary. We give them mentors to work one-on-one with them — another way they can tell their story, and they feel confident about themselves, and they have something valuable to give.”
Of its seven locations around the region, Mighty Writers El Futuro is a bilingual site of the organization, serving the Hispanic community of South Philadelphia from its headquarters in the Italian Market.
Through workshops and organizations, the site fosters reading and writing skills of children and adolescents in both Spanish and English.
While the evening’s festivities included a thrilling lineup of Christmas carols, a traditional Chiapanecas dance and even a photo booth, the highlight of the evening was Mighty Writers students reciting some of their original works to the crowd.
“We are supporting the young writers, and we present some of their pieces for them to feel supported and to express the ideas that they’ve got or whatever they’re expressing through their writing,” said Nelia Diaz, a program director at El Futuro.
One writer, 12-year-old Eric Perez, shared the story of his solo journey to Mexico where he met his grandmother.
While feeling anxious at first to share his narrative, Perez wanted to inspire his listeners. Audience members found themselves teary-eyed as he told an illustrative and moving account.
“Everybody, in one point of their lives, are scared of something,” he told SPR. “And everybody has courage, and sometimes, you need to take courage. And, I thought that was one of my experiences.”
In light of current headlines surrounding immigration, program directors say the evening served as an opportunity for local residents to decompress and commemorate the holiday season.
Attendees were encouraged to take pride in their heritage while exposing their customs to new demographics.
“I’m proud of this hispanic community,” Diaz said. “So, we’re known mostly for working, working, working and the struggles and this and that. But, we also take breaks, and we take time to celebrate.”
Looking ahead, Mighty Writers El Futuro hopes to continue hosting more of such celebrations with proceeds benefiting education resources.
Admission costs for El Futuro’s first Posada, which was supported by Garfield Group, went toward El Futuro programming and student scholarships. The Garfield Group is also assisting the organization with a GoFundMe campaign to raise $5,000 for new student chromebooks.
By establishing cogent and compelling writing skills, the students of all Mighty Writers sites will flourish beyond homework assignments.
“We teach kids how to write, and we believe that once kids learn how to think clearly and write clearly, all kind of good things happen — self-esteem goes up, confidence grows. They begin to identify themselves as people of the future,” said Tim Whitaker, executive director of Mighty Writers. “We’re not trying to turn kids into professional writers, but we are trying to get them to be able to think clearly about not only writing, but about what they want to do and look at their futures and be able to clearly articulate them.”
To learn more about Mighty Writers, visit: https://mightywriters.org/
To donate to the chromebook campaign, visit: www.gofundme.com/unleash-your-mighty.