I've been through so much in my lifetime
(But I still shine!)
I was taken away from my mom.
(But still I move on!)
-- From "My Time," by Mya Meriweather
Mya, a 16-year-old sophomore at Wilkinsburg High School, has been writing poetry for as long as she can remember, but it wasn't until an Allegheny County child welfare agency removed her and her three siblings from their mother's care three years ago that she got really focused and serious about it.
Yes my heart was torn
Being with people I didn't even know
(Going places I didn't want to go!)
Seeing People I didn't want to see.
(It felt like no one was there for me!)
I remember crying myself to sleep
(Not knowing if I would even make it through the week.)
Writing poetry "helps me get through a lot of stuff. When I get depressive and down, I can get past the hurt and pain I've been through," said Mya, who has lived in a group home and with four foster families since Children, Youth and Families took her from her mother. Mya, meanwhile, has been getting therapy and other help through Partnerships for Youth Transition, part of the county Department of Health Services System of Care Initiative.
It was so stressful for me
In and out of Foster Homes
(All those foster homes!)
Not happy with myself
Not happy with MY LIFE
(Ready to cut my brown skin
with a knife.)
Now, Mya said, "I want other people who are going through the same thing to know there are other people out there who have gone through it and that help is available."
Tomorrow night, Mya, who has depression, gets the audience of a lifetime when she appears on stage in the Harmon Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C., as part of the observance of National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day.
She will be joined by another local System of Care Initiative client, Marquee James, 15, of Penn Hills, and six other young people from around the country who won a national competition for the chance to perform, $500 cash awards and expense-paid trips to Washington.
They will be in heady company: Co-hosts for the performance are actress-recording artist Sabrina Bryan of "The Cheetah Girls" fame and actor Solomon Trimble, who played Sam Uley in the film "Twilight." Academy Award winner Goldie Hawn will receive a special recognition award from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for her efforts through The Hawn Foundation to increase public understanding of mental issues.
Twelve systems of care communities from the United States sent in audition videos for the competition. There was a seven-judge panel including representatives of the mental health organizations that planned Awareness Day, a youth from a system of care community and a youth coordinator from another system of care community.
"I was just lost for words," Mya said of learning of her and Marquee's selection. "I was so happy."
Mya and Marquee, who enacts a monologue from "Two for One" by Pittsburgh playwright Deborah Pollard Starling, performed together on their contest video. They will recite separately tomorrow night with Mya going first. Marquee, who received services from the System of Care Initiative's Community Connections for Families because of problems at home and in school, said he also will mime to gospel music before his spoken performance.
Mya, a self-described good student who hopes to work with children after college, said she also will move around the stage while she recites "My Time."
But Then I met PYT
Partnerships and Youth Transition
They helped me see
(I opened my eyes
And changed my life drastically!)
(I didn't think this could ever be!)
They spoke truth
And that's what got through to me.
Pohla Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1228.