“If you listen closely you can hear the trumpets playing my
victory song “I made it”
I am here now. So gifted and loved, the world
cannot handle me.
Refuse to fear and stumble.
I choose to believe dear Lord held my unbelief.”

Excerpt from A Line Each
By the Back Talk Collective

Young people at Eva’s Satellite recently wrapped up Back Talk: Voices Against Violence, a spoken word poetry program for street-involved young women and femme folks. Back Talk creates a safe space for these young women to creatively process and talk about difficult issues such as gender-based violence, consent, and their bodies. It came to Eva’s Satellite as part of our Health and Wellness Programming.

The culmination of the program was a book published by the artists and a series of performances. It provides a critical learning opportunity and lays a pathway for emerging artists to become professional artists. Participants have already performed at Sherbourne Health’s SOY program, University of Toronto’s Social Work Masters Class, Seneca College, and the Urban Space Gallery.

“It just took someone expressing raw poetry for me to be like ‘I could do this too’. So empowering.” – The Painter, artist and program participant.

Ayla and Maymuna, who facilitate the programming, see how much young women benefit from learning poetry as an art. “Everybody in the room has a different set of knowledge so we’re always learning from each other,” says Maymuna. They use art, poetry, writing, or any kind of creative expression in order to create a communal learning environment. It gives participants a chance to take power over their narrative and difficult experiences.

“I feel like there is a lot that youth dealing with mental health challenges can learn,” says Celeste “You can only get taught that in a workshop, you wouldn’t get taught that in an actual school setting. When you have those skills, that gives you a foundation and they can carry those tools in life.”

Young women do not often get the chance to talk about their experiences in other social circles because there is a lot of stigma. Street-involved young women are particularly at risk of experiencing violence. They are also less likely to have access to free and affordable programming like this to process and heal from their experiences.

“[These programs] give a safe space to be able to provide for yourself and express yourself.” – Celeste, artist and program participant.

Hosting the program at Eva’s Satellite was very beneficial to the participants. In other spaces, like drop-in centers, it can be difficult to feel safe when you don’t have control over who is coming in and out of the space like the group did at Eva’s Satellite. It also created a low barrier opportunity for youth staying at Eva’s Satellite as they didn’t have worry about using up precious resources like time, transit fare, and money to travel to the programming space.

“The best part of the program was knowing that even after the program, when you do become a solo artist, you’re going to have your sister behind you no matter what.” – Mercedes, artist and program participant.

Back Talk participants agreed that one of the most beautiful outcomes of the program was the sisterhood that they created. Watching them support and encourage each other during their presentation at Eva’s Administrative Office was a demonstration of the relationships they formed.

We’re so proud of what the young people that participated in the program made possible through CANVAS Arts Action Programs with generous funding by the Ontario Art Council’s Creative Engagement Fund to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment in Ontario.