Ypsi's Corner Health Center, Ann Arbor's UMS partner to connect youth through art during COVID

Ypsilanti's Corner Health Center recently partnered with Ann Arbor's University Musical Society to create the Washtenaw COVID Cultural Partnership (WCCP). The partnership's goal is to connect youth who felt isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, bust COVID-19 myths, and give youth an avenue for self-expression. 

The partners are currently offering "Express Yourself/Protect Yourself," a series of workshops focusing on poetry, hip-hop, improv, and other kinds of art for youth ages 12-25. Two sessions already took place in March and April. Monthly events are also planned for May and June.

Corner Health Center Development Manager Nicole Braxton says that when the WCCP was first formed in 2021, 49% of confirmed and probable positive COVID-19 cases in Washtenaw County were from ZIP codes 48197 and 48198. 

"This trend follows the national pattern where there is a direct correlation between the rate of poverty, the concentration of non-whites, and the higher rate of COVID-19 cases," Braxton says. "We saw a great need and opportunity to make an impact in the community."

Braxton says Corner Health Center has had a long history with UMS, and the two organizations have partnered on previous programs and projects. 

"We provide critical information to youth through fun and artistic ways, and UMS brings great experience with artistic forms and performances in the community," Braxton says. "We thought it was an opportune time to connect, share, and collaborate for this workshop series."

While Corner Health Center employees will be on hand at the workshops to make sure participants get accurate health information, the focus is on art and self-expression.

"Our focus is the art, although we're here to provide vaccine support, answer questions, or dispel myths with our health professionals," says Corner Health Center Community Outreach and Education Manager Ashley Anderson. "We're creating a space to come together to learn a skill and connect and to let them know there are organizations here that support you, and resources are available. Our doors have been open throughout the pandemic."

Braxton says the March event, featuring local musician Jamall Bufford (also known as Buff 1), was well attended.

"That was a good time for us to explore hip-hop and how youth can express themselves through that art form," Braxton says. 

Anderson says organizers have seen "a good number of RSVPs" for upcoming events.

"We're hoping we'll have an even larger turnout [at future events] now that the word is out about what we're doing and how fun our events are," she says.

Upcoming workshop themes include West African Drum, Dance, and Healing on May 15 and Improv and Storytelling on June 12. All monthly programs have been held from 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. at Riverside Arts Center, 76 N. Huron St. in Ypsilanti, although Braxton says the venue may change for the May and June events.

More information about the workshop series and links to sign up for future sessions are available at Corner Health Center's website or Facebook page.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.
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