On Monday, April 29th, “The Human Journey: Creating the Story of Us” 2019 Kennedy Center Arts Summit explored how stories—especially those stories that lay beyond the dominant narrative—can reframe world views, foster empathy, and build a more equitable society. Poets, playwrights, writers, and artists of all kinds came together to tell their stories of finding and cultivating their voice. 826 National CEO, Laura Brief, and two of our student writers were thrilled to add their perspectives and ensure that young people were a part of these essential conversations.

Laura enjoyed a conversation with writer, executive producer, and actor of Netflix’s new show Special, Ryan O’Connell, where they discussed values that are near and dear to our hearts at 826, like “Whose voices are heard and amplified? What impact does that have on our lives, culture, history, and nation?”

Additionally, two of our students—Agnes Ugoji, age 19, 826 Boston and Vanessa Ramon-Ibarra, age 16, 826DC—also participated in the Arts Summit. Agnes performed her award-winning spoken word poetry and sat on the “Expanding the Narrative” panel with Laura, which allowed panelists and presenters to examine how intentionality around authorship, agency, and allyship can challenge dominant, singular narratives and lead to a dynamic, inclusive, and intersectional society. Vanessa was interviewed on the mainstage by radio journalist and producer, Stephanie Foo, about immigration, family, and friendship.

Vanessa Ramon-Ibarra, a high school freshman and 826DC student, gave the audience a deeper insight into her profound world of creativity and her sources of inspiration as a young writer. Vanessa is motivated to showcase the innovative voices of young people living in multi-layered culture communities in the United States. Stephanie Foo interviewed Vanessa about her process of originating interesting and inspiring stories of immigration, family, friendship, transitions, and her personal story of growing up in dual communities (United States and Venezuela).

826 is honored to be a part of such important conversations that are aligned with our mission, and it was a unique joy to share the work that we’ve been doing for the past 17 years with such a like-minded audience.

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