Embracing motherhood through the support of community

Motherhood can be one of the most wonderful and fulfilling journeys a woman can embark on, but it can come with many challenges, especially when you are a single mother at a young age. At times, you feel scared and isolated – like the weight of the world is on your shoulders – and you have nowhere to turn. Such was the case when I became pregnant with my son at the age of 19. Despite this chaotic time in my life, I was determined not to allow a teenage pregnancy to define me. However, I was uncertain how to balance being a new mom, attending Texas Southern University, marching in the Ocean of Soul band, and working. I needed a strong support system. That’s when I learned about Project Row Houses’ Young Mothers Residential Program (YMRP).

YMRP empowers young single mothers and their children in achieving independent, self-sufficient lives. Since 1996, YMRP has supported hundreds of mothers and their families, some of whom have gone on to earn doctorates, law degrees and become community leaders and entrepreneurs. Through this program, PRH provides a culturally rich environment in which residents develop healthy, holistic living practices and cultivate a sense of positive energy and self-worth that will guide them in becoming empowered, self-confident, nurturing women, mothers, daughters, companions, and employees.

YMRP afforded me a strong support system, which is something that all young, single moms should have access to, but unfortunately, not enough do. I do not know what I would have done without the constant support of my program mentors and my fellow moms. We forged a special bond and a real sisterhood. We laughed together, cried together, made dinners together, and our children played together. To this day, some of my closest friends are the women I met through the program. 

Dawn Jones, a current mom in the program, echoed how special it has been for her to be supported by the other young moms in her cohort. Before YMRP, she felt like she was the only one going through certain situations, but since starting the program in January, she quickly realized that so many young moms face similar obstacles and triumphs and that the program allows them the space to regroup and celebrate together.

Through the workshops and classes that Dawn is attending, she has learned not only how to improve her parenting skills but also how to persevere as she continues to achieve her professional and personal goals. She specifically credits the Black Parenting class that she has been in for the past two months in changing her perspective on parenting. Importantly, she is practicing feeling less guilty about having to go to work and school. She understands that although she is sacrificing spending time with her son, in the end, she is doing her best to provide the safe, happy, and healthy life they deserve.

Dawn is currently pursuing a degree from Texas Southern University. She also has her own blog, is involved with the NAACP NextGEN and the Honor Society of Leadership and Success, and works as a lead field organizer.

Yvette Chapman was 26-years-old when she and her then 5-year-old daughter were in the program. She is now a teacher for gifted and talented students in Spring ISD and is a visual artist as well. She was HHBSE Teach of the Year- Houston Chapter. She completed her Masters of Education in school counseling and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Counseling Education. For her, the support and encouragement she felt while in the program still guides her parenting approach. Through the program, she learned to embrace the concept of “it takes a village to raise a child.” As single mothers, we can often feel like it is our responsibility to take care of our children on our own and it can be hard for us to ask for help. YMRP gives us a safe space to practice asking for help. Although Yvette’s daughter is now a teenager, she still utilizes the skills she learned about how to seek advice and help from others. She is not afraid to reach out to other parents and ask how they have dealt with similar situations.

In addition to the emotional support that I received from my cohort, the program also provided housing and counseling. My experience with YMRP truly changed the trajectory of my life. My son and I were nurtured in a loving community and exposed to arts and culture like never before - from the Black Parenting classes taught by Dr. Nelda Lewis to my home - my little house on Holman Street. I can still remember my mentor mom, Ms. Yvonne Morales, taking me to Target to go shopping for my house. I gained a level of knowledge about myself and my capabilities that I had not explored in the past.

Although I graduated from YMRP many years ago, the program, PRH, and the Third Ward community – the very same community that enveloped me in love, strength, and support – will always have a special place in my heart. As soon as I earned my graduate degree and moved back to Houston, I knew I wanted to be involved with the YMRP so I joined the advisory committee. From there, I was asked to be a mentor mom.

When the Director of Advancement position became open, PRH wanted to bring me on as a full-time team member. Without hesitation, I joined the organization that has changed so many lives, including my own. Through my role, I am excited to help support YMRP and touch the lives of many more young single moms and their children just like Dr. Lewis and Ms. Yvonne impacted mine.

In honor of Mother's Day, I encourage you to consider giving a gift on behalf of YMRP and the women and children we serve. 

Sincerely, Shannette Prince

Young Mothers Residential Program Graduate

PRH Director of Advancement

2018 KGMA-PRH Fellows Lectures

Center for Art and Social Engagement and Project Row Houses have created a fellowship program that invites artists and cultural practitioners to the Third Ward to work alongside urban planners, educators and policy makers. The fellows will engage in creative collaborations that involve the Houston's historic Third Ward community and address issues important to them. 

The two fellows have a year-long mentorship with project administrators Sixto Wagan, director of the UH Center for Art and Social Engagement at the University of Houston's Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts, and Ryan N. Dennis, PRH's Curator and Programs Director.  Local artists, faculty members, community members and selected leaders will offer their support during this process. The Fellows will present to the public their research–to-date at the end of their fellowship.

Below are the culminating lectures from our 2018 KGMCA-PRH Fellows, Regina Agu and Eyakem Gulilat.

Regina Agu

Regina Agu’s work, titled “A Psychogeography of Emancipation Park,” is a multimedia performative lecture that draws from archival and original photographs, text, moving image, and sound. Throughout her fellowship, Agu investigated the history of mass congregation and activism in public green spaces and parks in Houston, with a particular emphasis on Emancipation Park. Her year centered on developing an understanding of the opportunities and challenges of establishing and maintaining safe, healthy, public spaces for residents of color across the city and researching a feminist history of Emancipation Park and Third Ward.

Eyakem Gulilat

Eyakem Gulilat’s work, titled “Black Place-Making and Informality,” explores Black place-making practice and uses photography as a tool for documentation as well as an interactive exchange. Throughout his fellowship, Gulilat’s research centered on these questions: How do the narratives contained in Third Ward create a sense of place, and what type of stories do these places tell us about Third Ward and the African American community? His talk and accompanying exhibition explore the ideas of informal urbanism and landscape as metaphor.

Social Practice.Social Justice Symposium 2018

Social Practice.Social Justice

Presented by Project Row Houses (PRH), Social Practice.Social Justice is a day-long symposium bringing together artists, activists and thought leaders to Houston’s Third Ward. The symposium begins Friday evening with a special dinner with panelists and PRH staff hosted by Project Row Houses. It continues with Day 2 on Saturday morning with a panel discussion on neighborhood development and the strategies used in communities impacted by disinvestment. This session will be followed by a keynote address from Lisa Dent, thought leader and advocate for cultural workers, living artists and shape-shifters. The afternoon session will conclude the symposium, with a panel centered on utilizing creativity, imagination and engagement.  

All videos by Rex Hudson

Neighborhood Development and the Preservation of a Community

Morning Panel, moderated by Eureka Gilkey, Executive Director, PRH
10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

This panel brings together individuals who are pathing a way forward for conscious neighborhood development and work actively to preserve historic buildings in neighborhoods that have been disinvested in. 

Panelists:

  • Irfana Jetha Noorani, 11th Street Bridge Project, Washington DC

  • Pat Jordan, Gem Cultural and Education Center, Kansas City

  • Danielle Burns Wilson, The African American Library at the Gregory School 

The Romance of Community

Lisa Dent will present current research on philanthropic and cultural organizations, placing the support of artistic work within a socioeconomic context. Introduction by Tamika Evans, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Project Row Houses.

Beyond Social Practice

Afternoon Panel, moderated by Gia Hamilton, Cultural Producer

The panelists will present their individual practices and discuss the broad, often vague definition of "social practice" as well as their observed impact of art and creativity on the community.

Panelists:

  • Shani Peters, New York-based Artist

  • Nathaniel Donnett, Houston-based Artist

  • Jen Delos Reyes, Chicago-based Artist & Cultural worker

The Billboard Campaign

The Billboard Campaign

In Partnership with HCP for FotoFest Houston 2018

Viewing Period
March 10 - April 22, 2018

Opening + Conversation
March 10, 11-1pm

For Freedoms is an artist-run initiative, founded in 2015 by artists Eric Gottesman and Hank Willis Thomas to mobilize the arts infrastructure of the United States toward broader civic participation using the tools of political campaigns, activism, and advertising. The Billboard Campaign(2016– ) is an ongoing series of artist-produced billboard installations in public spaces and in art spaces. Co-opting the billboard format—a tool of political advertising—these works invite the viewer to engage critically both with the messages they present and with the medium of political advertising itself.

This billboard was produced in conjunction with the For Freedoms-organized town hall discussion The Artifice of Drawn Borders. It includes an image from a series of photographs by Eric Gottesman. This series, Jordan Is Not A Country, explores the manufactured phenomenon of nationalism in the Middle East. In a desert landscape stands a porous fence with holes, bent supports, and gaps, symbolic of the fragile veneer of nationalistic structures anywhere, and recalling concerns about immigration and citizenship here in the United States.

The words at the top of the image—“Where do we go from here?”—might evoke multiple associations: the words of the migrant confronting such divisive structures; the thoughts of many people today, who wonder about the current status of where we are as a nation; and Paul Gauguin’s inscription on his painting Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897–98), in the MFA’s collection.