Jasmine D. Haefner
I grew up in Minnesota and moved to Long Island, NY to attend Stony Brook University in 2011. My experience opening and rising to Assistant Director of the arts center was one of my formative experiences as an artist. My mother taught me about the work that I must do as a person of color to untrain my own prejudices and use my privilege as a tool to deconstruct institutional racism. My experience at the arts center allowed me to bridge the gap between Jasmine, the advocate, and Jasmine, the artist. The Yerbabruja Arts Center is in Centeal Islip, NY, which is an economically underprivileged and underserved area. It is in these communities that accessibility to arts and arts training is most needed, and from these communities comes the most inspiring creations I have ever seen. Working with Margarita and others at the arts center I have learned how I can use art to lift my own story into art, and in the same way, lift myself out of the bondage my own story. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2004, and have suffered from it for more than half of my life. A lot of the art I create revolves around my own struggle with my disease and healthcare in America.
he truth is, my story starkly doesn't relate to this charity. As a privileged white dude from the US, I haven't had to deal with anything like the challenges these kids face. Not once. And that is mind-blowing to me. That we're both humans alive at the same point in history and yet lead such wildly different existences seems so unfair it's almost difficult to comprehend. When some friends started volunteering for Many Hopes I got to see that a little more clearly and wanted to help. I'd hid for a long time behind excuses of not knowing which charities actually were making a difference or other bs like that. The high level of intervention -- I want to call it vertical aid -- is unquestionably making a huge impact on these communities. I don't think it's hyperbolic to say they're making the world a better place. I haven't helped as much as I'd like. Hopefully this is a kick in the pants to do just that.
As a spiritual being having a human experience I have always felt a deep connection with everything in the universe. As an artist and Creative Director of Mander Jewelry I am constantly inspired by the incredible colors, shapes, textures, and patterns found in nature. Because of this I am compelled to help protect the environment and the amazing wildlife that inhabits the Earth from the dangers present in the modern world. Through the Aboutface NYC project I hope to raise awareness and funds for the Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Denton Lex Smith
My story is one of how the precocious second son of a Jamaican plumber and businesswoman became a student, father, artist and entrepreneur who blazed his own trail to self realization by overcoming his lesser self and turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones. Indubitably, The Bronx keeps creating it...and we the people of the X tend to mark the spot in an oh-so special way. Albert Einstein Hospital. August 16th. Good Times was the number two song with a bullet headed to the top of the charts. I was the second son of Joy and Victor Smith. Mom, Dad and Grandma Ida raised me at the intersections of devout Jamaican strictness and high expectations. The first 18 years were a breeze. The crack era had nothing on me. Mom and Dad were stable. I had a n older and a younger brother. All boys. Heavy manners, and rambunction were the order of the day. All was good in the hood. I got into Columbia University. Early Decision. Full scholarship! Job on Wall Street at 17! And then some more scholarships to boot. (Go get the money, go get the money!) Got on the radio, WKCR-FM. Nice. Got a show! Got another show! Life was Awesome. Then came the darkness. All I had gained was steadily stripped away by a mental health issue I wouldn't recognize or ultimately have professionally diagnosed for fourteen years. Needless to say. SHIT got REAL. I looked in to the abyss... AND DID NOT BLINK. I did end up in a box in MDC. Manhattan Detention Complex for the uninitiated. Thankfully, my sentence was tempered by the leniency and was relatively short. The impact however was massive. I began turning the setbacks into a setup for a comeback. That was where the setbacks became the setup for the comeback. THANK GOD FOR THE ARTS. I would've been a goner for sure. Enter The Fortune Society. A 55 plus year old organization assisting anyone with justice issues or involvement in the system. From those who had been detained to those returning home from decades long bids. I addressed my inner demons with cognitive therapy and practical life coaching and support skills training in the areas of employment. I also enrolled in an acting class provided there that led to performances at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park for PublicWorks. I expanded as an MC and was included in the May 2017 Nat Geo GENIUS Issue. Nice. Fortune allowed me to transform my misfortunes in to the vast fortune within myself. Deep gratitude. I'm still digging deeper.