Helping young girls of color navigate the trauma of gun violence

Conscious Queens workshop focuses on mental health awareness
Photo credit Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Growing up and coming of age already has challenges built in for young people, but when they experience gun violence in their community, their lives become even more stressful. And that violence has ripple effects that stretch far into their lives.

The Conscious Queens Wellness Workshop for Girls of Color program, which rolled out last year, is aimed at girls of color between the ages of 7 and 17, a time in their youth when the sounds of gunfire and the loss of friends to the streets should not be normal.

“The focus is to share techniques with the girls on how to manage their anger, anxiety from the traumatic encounters that they’re experiencing within the city due to the violence,” said Gina Booker, who leads the program.

Conscious Queens is a program of the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services.

During last year’s workshop session, Booker said the participating girls really opened up and shared their struggles.

“There’s a host of reasons that the girls gave me, and they’re just dealing and trying to struggle and make it from day to day. And that’s where my concern was, to share with them how to manage these things,” Booker said.

“They were dealing with bullying. They were dealing with gun violence, inside and outside and at home. They were dealing with stress from just school itself, the environment of school.”

It’s important to meet the needs of the city’s youth who are exposed to the horrors of gun violence — and many programs tend to focus on young men. But girls, Booker said, are also trying to navigate their fear and the aftermath of violence, on top of the added pressure of trying to find their place in the world as young women of color.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guns are the leading cause of death for American children and teens. In Philadelphia, more than 100 students have been shot since school started in the fall.

The Conscious Queens workshop introduces mental health awareness techniques, including mindfulness, group discussions, interactive engagement and yoga. So far, 50 girls have registered for Thursday’s workshop at Finley Recreation Center in West Oak Lane.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images