US-2 Jamila Hunter: Creativity Empowers the Community
by Mary Beth Coudal
Jamila Hunter from Brooklyn, New York, served with Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the first of her two years as a US-2. US-2s are missionaries between the ages of 20 and 30 who teach, learn from, pray with, and advocate for people in communities seeking transformation and justice in the United States.
As a missionary with Hyde Park Community UMC, Jamila worked with a prison ministry in a juvenile detention center and learned the value of actively listening to young people who had been overlooked and, indeed, written off. Of the people she met there, Ms. Hunter said, "They taught me how to listen and understand the whole story and reasons why the systems have failed them."
She also worked with the people of StarFire U, a home for youth and adults who are mentally and physically disabled. Ms. Hunter learned about hope and the spirit and joy of God.
"While working with the adults I was able to experience the simple joys of life, from people I never would have expected," said Ms. Hunter. "It was in the times that I worked with the homeless serving meals, teaching adult computer literacy, and simply playing a game of checkers where I realized that people who, on the surface, had nothing, still had their faith."
She taught art to children at the community center and celebrated their creativity with a photography and art show. Many of the young kids who contributed their artwork had never been to a gallery or museum. "They saw themselves in the work. Their paintings released their anger and frustration."
Ms. Hunter now brings her passion for creativity, justice, and empowerment to New Orleans, where she works as a community organizer at Fountain of Youth, a program for 16-to-25-year-olds who are looking for work and ways to engage within their communities. The program partners with the Louisiana Conference of The United Methodist Church.
"What pushes me is that I want to make sure information is available to all," said Ms. Hunter.
The push for justice and access may lead to resistance. In that case, Ms. Hunter advised, "When building bridges...you first acknowledge it's okay to be uncomfortable and okay to have conflict. Then you go through it."
Date posted: Jan 20, 2012