Summer 2020

Dear Readers:

The world has changed since the spring issue of Represent, which covered trauma. One thing we’ve learned from Represent writers is that the pandemic is a mental health crisis too.

In this digital-only summer issue, Joanna and Tayia describe how their PTSD, anxiety, and depression have all been reawakened by the coronavirus lockdown. 
Loss of school and other routines, isolation, and confusion about where one fits in in the world are especially tough on foster youth. Therapist Marina Stolerman offers great suggestions for maintaining connections and stability when the world is in upheaval. 

Even as we face the worst health crisis in a century, the country is also confronting its terrible legacy of racism and white supremacy — a trauma that people of color have endured for centuries. Starting in March, Asian Americans were blamed and victimized for the illness. Then on May 25, George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer, and the world watched. Gabrielle was one of many who took to the streets in anger. She and many others are searching for ways to repair, rebuild, or replace old racist systems, including the foster care and immigration systems, with ones that are more equitable. Youth Communication’s summer workshop theme is economic inequality, so look for more stories from teens on the world they want. 
The Pandemic Reawakened My PTSD
Joanna suffers from PTSD stemming from childhood abuse. She had found ways to control it, but the pandemic retriggered flashbacks and panic attacks. Writing, therapy, and creating a new routine help her cope.
Losing Myself in a Pandemic
Tayia’s PTSD, anxiety, and depression are aggravated by sheltering in place with her foster family. Separated from teachers and friends, she struggles with online classes and even her sense of self. 
Standing Up in Public
Gabbie Rodriguez is horrified by the murder of George Floyd and attends her first Black Lives Matter protest. She is struck by the diversity and intersectionality of the speakers, one of whom reminded the crowd that “Black trans lives matter.” She describes how standing in the streets demanding justice with other people moves her to more activism and organizing. 
Video: Why I Wear a Mask
Alex Jimenez explains why he, a healthy young man, wears a mask whenever he goes outside. Be Like Alex!
Connection, Routine, and Helping Others
Tayia interviews therapist Marina Stolerman about coping with the pandemic. Marina recommends making a routine that includes regular socializing and going outside, safely distanced.
Threatened With Homelessness, He Pushed Back
In late March, foster youth in CUNY dorms were told, “Get out. You have two days.” Marcus alerted the media and elected officials, and many youth got to stay in the dorms.
In Quarantine With a Family I Must Leave
The writer is an unaccompanied minor from Africa, spending her lockdown with a loving foster family in the Bronx. U.S. immigration law forces her to move away from them during the pandemic. See the group activity for this story
From Feeling Safe to Feeling Like a Stereotype
Christina has always felt invisible except as a “model minority.” After a classmate calls her “Corona” and she notices more xenophobia everywhere, she feels “seen” in a new and awful way. Note: Christina is not in foster care.
Waiting for the World to Come Back
S.T. is in a group home for unaccompanied minors after fleeing violence in Guinea, Africa. He makes sense of the pandemic by painting. See the group activity for this story
The City Canceled the Summer Youth Employment Program
Abdullah was counting on his Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) job, both for experience and to help him pay for college. When New York City canceled SYEP, Abdullah joined the movement to restore it. Note: Abdullah is not in foster care.
The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens' struggles. Represent is published by Youth Communication, a nonprofit organization.

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