This morning, the Born This Way Foundation team woke up in Vancouver, Canada.
Tonight, Lady Gaga will hit the stage for her first performance on the Joanne World Tour and we’ll be excitedly watching and dancing until our feet hurt.
But we didn’t come to Vancouver for the music – we came for the kindness.
Born This Way Foundation will leverage more than 35 tour stops by organizing or participating in a variety of events and activations that will support our mission of engaging youth to foster kindness, improve mental wellness, and create more positive environments.
The first stop last night was the Elizabeth Fry Center, in New Westminster where we had dinner with a couple dozen incredible young people, ages 6 to 16. We had the privilege of sitting with these young people, hearing their stories, and inviting them to write good luck to Lady Gaga ahead of her first performance.
I sat next to a young man, excited that I worked for Lady Gaga but eager to know if I had ever met his idols – Metallica. He detailed for us the incredible Grammy performance that Lady Gaga and Metallica gave and his parting words to me were, “Tell Lady Gaga to tell Metallica that I said hi.” I will happily pass along that message.
After dinner was served, I walked around the room and cleaned up the empty tables. I asked a beautiful young girl in the corner if I could take her plate and she said, “Sure, thanks.” As I was removing the plate in front of her, she looked up and me and said, “I’m a good person.” I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach at her innocent declaration.
“Of course you are. Of course you are,” I said, almost in tears. I don’t know what prompted her to tell me that and I don’t think my response to her was sufficient but the goal of the next five months is for us to stand alongside young people, hear and affirm their stories, and then use the platforms, voices and partnerships that we have access to work alongside these young people to build a kinder and braver world.
Last night’s room was filled with good children. Children facing serious challenges and doing so with positivity, resilience and determination. I sat down with Shawn Bayes, their Executive Director, and asked my favorite question; “What do you need? What do the children in this room need?”
She told me that they serve more than 1,700 children of incarcerated parents per year through their Saturday Club Program, their camp program, and through an incredibly emotional literacy program in which incarcerated parents record themselves reading books to their children.
Shawn told me that they need any and all of the following; camping supplies (rain gear, footwear, sleeping bags, flashlights, water bottles), new books for children (ages 0 – 16), and – for their Saturday Club – sports equipment, musical instruments and creative art supplies.
Whether or not you’re in the Vancouver area – please consider making a donation to this incredible non-profit so that they can continue their vital work to create dignity, opportunity, and equality for the amazing families that they work with.
Maya Enista Smith