In our Spotlight series, we catch up with grant winners still making awesome happen in Pittsburgh, even in challenging times.
As events of the last weeks have proven, having a voice and being heard are two entirely different things.
“When you see trauma and live in that same trauma, your heart can begin to normalize it. Hurt, fear, pain, violence…these aren’t normal. This isn’t what life is or should be,” says Eszquire Harris, CEO and founder of The BlackTeaBrownSuga, a live video-casting network.
Harris started BTBSN in 2016. The network grew out of his desire to give young Black men and women a platform to raise their voices and speak out on the issues they face. The mission is simple and clear — educate, inspire, and equip the community with the knowledge and skills needed to achieve success.
The lack of positive images of the Black community spurred Harris to try and make an impact. He opened the BTBSN studio in a McKees Rocks storefront and they immediately began partnering with schools and businesses to create a positive effect on the community. Awesome Pittsburgh awarded BTBSN with a micro-grant for their free after school program, which aimed to give students a creative space to learn the industry and refine their skills.
“Of course, one of our most proud moments so far is the voice we’ve been able to give the youth. It is a safe place where they can come and be productive and encouraged to learn and be more,” says Harris.
When asked about what he would say to youth now in our current racial climate, Harris says he would tell them to normalize talking to people about how they feel with what is happening around them. “Don’t allow the pain to turn into hurt and anger. Allow it to motivate you to keep fighting for better…the better we all deserve!”
Being heard, though, is where he says we all play a part to uplift the next generation. “The biggest role we can play for each other is effective listening. Listening to understand, but also learning how to effectively communicate. Not everyone’s background has equipped them with the ability to automatically understand someone else’s, and we have to remember that when someone wants to learn and grow.”
Harris continued, “Our ‘past’ is the youth’s ‘current’ and everyone’s ‘future.’ This is their opportunity to build on what has already been built so the change of narrative starts now!”
For its part, BTBSN is currently working on a series of prerecorded podcasts that aim to bring a diverse group together to bridge the wide divide we are currently seeing. As Harris says,
“Healing starts with understanding.”