Uptown Summer 2021: Youth Sanctuary

The theme of Uptown Summer 2021 is
Youth Sanctuary: Environmental Justice, Healing and Hope.

The 11th year of “Uptown Summer,” with 5 weeks of youth activities in collaboration with Rensselaer County Summer Youth Employment Program, continued as a creative convergence around art, media and science. Activities include radio production and social media, environmental justice stewardship and urban gardening, community science and healing.

Check out these posts to follow the Uptown Summer journey:

Uptown Summer: Plant-Based Watercolor Workshop

Uptown Summer: Urban Gardening & CSA Boxes

Uptown Summer: Radio Production

Uptown Summer: Community Science Day

Uptown Summer: Bird Walk

Uptown Summer: Soil Testing for Lead

Radio Production


The program runs from July 6 – August 6, in person on Monday-Friday mornings 8am-noon. An additional 5 hours per week have been scheduled for each youth individually, including Youth Health Sanctuary in person on Fridays 5-7, or independently from home. All youth are employees of Rensselaer County and are covered under the County’s insurance and liability.

Work projects are designed to build infrastructure and outreach with Youth Media Sanctuary, Youth Health Sanctuary and Youth Science Sanctuary, using media, science and art to address inter-sectional issues of health and justice in our North Central neighborhood. Measurable tasks include developing nature walks through thriving urban gardens, developing peer training for mental health for local youth, learning about community science and soil testing, and producing local community stories with interdisciplinary media production.

Jobs include a holistic blend of professional and creative life skills, including social media and radio producer, urban gardener, mental health peer mentor, community scientist, artist and creative entrepreneur. Special requirements include being curious and open minded, willing to take risks, willing to express oneself through public speaking, writing and other creative modalities, and demonstrating the ability  to work collaboratively in an environment of shared care, trust and respect.

8:00-8:30 Opening circle @CCG
8:30- 9:50 Gardening and maintenance of CCG Campus
9:50-10:00 Transition to Sanctuary Space
M  Youth Health Sanctuary (Health Healing Hope listening circles and leadership training)
T   Youth Media Sanctuary (Radio Production, NATURE Lab Art Trail Sound Walk)
W  Youth Science Sanctuary (Community Science with Soil: Our Soil, Norlite) 
Th  Youth Media Sanctuary (Social Media Production, Photography, Writing)
F   Youth Health Sanctuary (Health Healing Hope)
+ Special Art Projects
11:30-11:45 Work Tasks
11:45-12:00 Closing circle + 5 additional hours per week: Open hours at home: social media production, plus in person Fridays 5-7pm Youth Health Sanctuary


D. Colin

D. Colin is a poet, performer, visual artist and educator, and will be the Uptown Summer Lead Mentor. Danielle has taught multiple workshops over the years with Uptown Summer youth, and has performed multiple times both in the Sanctuary and outside at Freedom Square. She is the author of two poetry collections, Dreaming in Kreyol and Said the Swing to the Hoop. She is also a Cave Canem, VONA and New York State Writers Institute fellow with degrees in English and Africana Studies. Since 2016, D. Colin has been running Poetic Vibe, a weekly open mic voted best in the Capital Region in 2019. Also in 2019, D. was honored as Resourceful Woman of the Year in the Arts by YWCA-GCR and one of The Collaborative’s Creatives under 40. 


Luz Marquez-Benbow is a Black Boricua survivor and national leader in the anti-sexual violence movement Most recently, as a Just Beginings Collaborative Fellow 2016- 2019, her project IamNegrx, has allowed her to hold Afrodescendant Survivor Listening circles, leading to the first research paper on Afrolatinas and Child Sexual Abuse. She is the adult mentor in collaboration with youth leader Genesis Cooper on the Hope Health and Healing (H3) Collective, which will bookend each week of Uptown Summer with listening circles and focus on mental health for youth of color and LGBTQI+ teens.

Genesis Cooper is a previous youth participant with Uptown Summer and is now a lead mentor for Hope Health Healing ’21.

Angelo Domingo is a previous youth participant with Uptown Summer and is now a lead mentor for Hope Health Healing ’21.


Jody Cowan

Sina Basila Hickey


Jamel Mosely


Abby Kinchy leads the Our Soil project, part of which includes teaching Uptown Summer youth about contaminants that are commonly found in urban soils—especially lead—and involving them in a process of soil sampling and testing.

Dan Walls

Kathy High


Erin Johanns


A Black woman sits smiling with her legs crossed on a NYC subway seat

Bernice Elizabeth Green is the co-publisher of www.ourtimepress.com. Genesis was telling Luz about writing for Our Times Press…  when we met at Freedom Square a few days ago. Bernice will be the Community Journalism mentor, and will be writing an article covering Uptown Summer ’21 with the goal of getting it published. She will also be on-call in support of one on one writing and journaling. 


Collecia Smith

Claire Hutchinson

Anna Steltenkamp

Tara Bryan

Lizzy Kramer

Ian Justino

COVID Safety Plan 
Although Rensselaer County has finally lowered the warnings of risk, we still want to be very conservative when it comes to our participants’ health. Here are our protocols.

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About The Sanctuary

We use art and participatory action to promote social and environmental justice and freedom of creative expression.

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