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San Diego youth organizer works with community to use arts as a form of healing

Maya "Pebblz" Luv poses for a portrait at her home in the southeastern neighborhood of San Diego
Maya “Pebblz” Luv, shown at her home in the southeastern neighborhood of San Diego, is a member of Asian Solidarity Collective’s youth committee.
(Adriana Heldiz/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Maya ‘Pebblz’ Luv is a member of Asian Solidarity Collective’s youth committee, which is hosting a series of workshops to facilitate community healing through the arts, starting Oct. 29 at Skyline Hills Library

Creating art is the only thing Maya “Pebblz” Luv wants to do in life. She grew up with art all around her, and while she didn’t have a television when she was younger, she had an imagination that manifested dressing up, painting, dancing, storytelling and entertaining the people around her. Exploring different art forms and creating also taught her how to be herself and remain open to learning.

“Art is a form of healing. Every time I do my art, I go into a state of mind where I can fully express all of my thoughts and feelings into a safe, accepting and sacred space,” she says. “My art has allowed me to find my own identity and … to be patient and enjoy my journey.”

That healing power is something she works to bring to her community in her work with Asian Solidarity Collective’s youth committee. ASC is a social justice organization working toward the collective liberation of all communities, and their youth committee created its Co-HEART (“cohort” and “hope, empowerment, aspire, restorative, transformation”) campaign last year with an eye toward collective care and community healing through series of art workshops.

Their latest is “Healing x Art = HEART,” which is a poetry and mixed media workshops featuring speaker and poet Viet Mai, known as Mr. Viet. From 3 to 5 p.m. today, and each Saturday through Nov. 12 at the Skyline Hills Library, youth and families are invited to participate in poetry and interactive art.

Luv, 19, is a youth organizer, b-girl (break dancer), actress, model and member of Asian Solidarity Collective’s youth committee living in southeastern San Diego. She took some time to talk about her work with the organization and how communal healing and art work together.

Q: Why did you want to become involved with Asian Solidarity Collective?

A: ASC had members I already knew, and a mission and vision that aligned with what I wanted to do in my community as an Asian American youth, being that their mission is to activate Asian American social justice consciousness, condemn anti-Blackness, and build Asian solidarity intersectionally with Black, Brown and Indigenous folks; people with disabilities; queer and trans people of color; and all oppressed communities. The organization also engages Asian Americans to be liberated from anti-Black racism, model minority myths, internalized colonialism, and White supremacy while also honoring Asian American histories, experiences and peoples as relational to other oppressed communities. We understand Asian American lives through a transnational, anti-imperialist framework. ASC is my political home and joining the organization felt natural and like a place where I can learn and grow as an organizer.

Q: How do you understand the role of art in leading to this kind of communal healing?

A: We believe that art and healing are revolutionary. Emory Douglas once said, “Recognize that art is a powerful tool, a language that can be used to enlighten, inform and guide to action.” The art he created for the Black Panther Party’s newspaper subverted the widespread narrative of White supremacy by visualizing Black empowerment and overcoming systemic injustice. Our hope is to continue the tradition of art as a means to regain power and hope. Many of our youth committee members spent time at the community recreation centers and realized that engaging in art as a form of healing and political education can engage youth in community building and organizing in a creative way.

Q: Why did the committee choose to focus on poetry?

A: Our members love and appreciate art, and many of us engage in multiple art forms ranging from DJ-ing to breaking, dancing to fashion, jewelry design to cooking and more. We want to provide a variety of art experiences for the youth and the community to explore. An Audre Lorde quote that’s meaningful to what Co-HEART is about is, “… poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into ideas, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.” In a time when our teachers, the media and many adults around us question how young people of color see the world, we need poetry to name the realities we experience.

What I love about southeastern San Diego ...

I love the sense of nostalgia and solidarity within my community. I can trust my neighbors for safety and help when needed and there are so many artists and people to learn from and to share memories and stories with. As a child, my family and crew spent a lot of time creating and training in my great-grandmother’s garage and still do, to this day. It’s a place where I can reflect, imagine, challenge myself and create.

Q: What do you hope people get from attending these workshops? After the two hours are over, what do you hope is the result?

A: We hope that folks who participate have an artful and healing experience that teaches them to trust their own perspectives and to make connections with others. Healing isn’t something that can be done alone, so we want folks to see the benefits of building relationships with each other. We hope that folks are activated to get involved in the movement and build solidarity because, as Black people have taught us, “None of us are free until we’re all free.”

Q: Have you experienced any personal healing through engaging with art? Are you comfortable sharing some of what was involved in that experience for you?

A: Sometimes, as an artist, I struggle with the ideology of being “seen” or “understood,” but some may understand, and others may not; the important thing is that you understand. This is your sense of clarity and love. Honestly, being seen by millions doesn’t matter, what matters is the people you come across who genuinely recognize and honor your existence. It all starts with you recognizing yourself. Your art always lasts forever, even when people don’t see it or hear it, it still exists, and that’s all that matters. My art has allowed me to find my own identity and to honor my process, to be patient and enjoy my journey.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: “Make something out of nothing” always grounds me. It has always taught and reminded me of how important it is to take my time to sharpen all of my skills so that, no matter what I face, I am able to still realize my dreams. Also, expand your artistry in every aspect of your life in a way that can ground you in who you are and how you express yourself.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: I love to design and make my own clothes and learn how to sew from my obachan [Japanese for “grandmother”]! My goal is to make my own dream closet/clothes.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: Either hosting and supporting community events, thrifting, creating art, or spending quality time with my family, crew and friends.


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