Name: Pedro Cruz
Organization: IBA (Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion)
Title: Youth Arts Program Coordinator
Artistic Genre: Photography/Poetry
Years in the Field: 11
What do you do at IBA?
I am currently the Youth Arts Program Coordinator for IBA’s Youth Development Team. This means I work with teens on a daily basis throughout the school and summer cycle. According to my job description my duties are to design art based curriculum that introduces the idea of social justice, as well as help the youth express their own views and concerns through art. But anyone in this field knows it’s more than that. If you ask me, my number one job is to build strong, long lasting relationships with my youth. The type of relationships that save lives.
Why do you do what you do?
I was born and raised in what I like to call a concrete jungle. It’s easy to be overlooked or judged when you’re a young minority from a community that suffers from poverty, turf wars and gentrification. I remember while growing up the only safe space I had was the local community center and teen spaces. I will never forget the impact those places had on me. I guess now I just want to be who I wish I had when I was younger.
What comes easiest to you in this work?
The easiest thing for me about this job is connecting with the youth. There is no science to it. I just do it. I was born and raised in the same streets they are navigating today. I know their struggles, their challenges and their desires. I know what they have to go through on a daily basis. I know how it feels to leave your neighborhood and feel as if you’re crossing into enemy territory. I know how it is to stay out of trouble but still be considered part of the problem just because of where you live or who you hang out with. These things can’t be thought. They must be lived.
What challenges you in this work?
The one thing that challenges me most is not being able to serve every youth that I come across. Sometimes it’s because of limited space or funding, but it hurts me to meet a youth and not be able to serve them the way they need to be served. Some youth require a lot more attention than others do, and that is not something easy to live with. In this job you need to know when to ask for help, and asking for help wasn’t something I did a lot of growing up.
What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
The beauty of all of this is that I currently work for the same Creative Youth Development Program I attended when I was a teenager. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work in my community and serve children I literally saw grow up around me. At this point, I can only speak from what I been told and I like to think that it means a lot to my community to see me doing this type of work. There has been many cases where parents feel a lot more comfortable allowing their kids to participate once they know it’s me who’s running the workshop or activity. That has to count for something.
How do you blow off steam?
Believe it or not, I go for walks around the city. No destination in mind. I just leave my house and wander around. There’s something about this process that I find therapeutic. I let my spirit guide me as I am studying people, soaking in the sounds and just watching an entire city live around me.
What do you create in your free time?
Easy- photographs and poems.
What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I must admit, I am possibly the biggest Blackbear fan in Boston. I love his music because it’s real. There’s no filter or sugarcoating to it. It is what it is. I like to think my art is the same way.
The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
“Building New Rome”
That’s always a good question to think about. Truthfully, I am currently working on a poetry book and building my photography brand. I just want to continue building my name as an artist and youth worker in the Boston area.