"I don't believe you can go through adversity without believing in a greater power than yourself."
In a world where celebrity, privacy, and fame are blurred lines of unethical marketing strategy click boosters, it is all too easy to become over exposed to the personal live of our favorite celebs. Somehow we actually believe we know them and their stories through the over saturated merciless lens of social media and the tabloids. What we think we know, what that celebrity choose to reveal and what is really happening will never be an authentic testimonial, which is why we at ART LIVING began the series, "Behind the Brand". To allow the artist to tell their story, their own way, and respectfully share their journey. Because it is personal, it is necessary, and most of all it is sacred.
Our newest "Behind the Brand" episode is extra special feature because it reveals the stories of two Harlem native sister friends joining forces to heal the community one yoga workshop at a time. How do you heal urban communities when you have been broken yourself and have hit rock bottom? How do you heal others when you are still healing yourself? Where does one find the strength to rebuild, re-create, and share from a different space of love? Well, we sat down with model, entrepreneur, yogi, documentarian, and founder of Urban Peace Squad Bre Scullark alongside mental health specialist, performing artist, and licensed social worker Mimi Woods to divulge into why Urban Peace Squad was created in the first place.
We we first introduced to the gorgeousness that is Bre Scullark on Cycle 5 of ANTM in 2003 almost 15 years ago. Since then life has taken her on many journeys and pathways throughout the unpredictable highs and lows in the entertainment industry. Along that journey, Bre was able to birth a new passion while attending rehab as she was introduced to yoga as a positive form of self-reflection and healing movement. Upon her completion of her rehab program, she moved back to her hometown of Harlem from LA, used an old job check that came through at the right time to rent a dance studio to teach community classes and what began as her form of personal healing became a community mission and workshop program called Urban Peace Squad.
Urban Peace Squad - a donation based peace workshop providing live music, yoga, meditation, and open discussion in underserved communities. Focused on a supportive environment for mental wellness Urban Peace Squad encourages self-acceptance, self-healing, and self-discovery to urban communities with the least access to taught self-empowerment practices.
MODEL . ENTREPRENEUR . YOGI . COMMUNITY ACTIVIST . DOCUMENTARIAN
ART LIVING: "Why Urban Peace Squad? Why Yoga? Why Urban Communities?"
Bre: "I wanted to create an organization that supported prisoners the way they had access to healing tools on the inside, I wanted to create that environment for them outside when they came home."
ART LIVING: "Mimi, what about for you?"
Mimi: "I chose to be apart of the movement because it was very much aligned with the work I do in my career every day. Bre was really passionate about bringing peace to trauma infested communities and we both live in the same complex across from the projects. And it was about, how can we have all of this knowledge on the other side of the street and not share it with the community. So I was really passionate about her movement of bringing peace, of bringing yoga, talking about mental health in the community because that's the biggest issue we have is NOT talking about mental health, NOT talking about how we are feeling and I knew that by joining this movement, it would increase that awareness and definitely get folks talking, which is why I joined."
ART LVING: "I think its so important to examine our WHY purpose when we commit ourselves to the community for healing. I believe setting that intention and being clear about the goal is why becomes that invisible thread of unbroken communication and education we need so much within the Black communities. Buttttt its not all serious with stats and numbers, so to switch gears a bit, what are some of cool things about Urban Peace Squad that makes its workshops so unique?"
Everyone is going through something, has been going through something, or will go through something.
Mimi: "I think one of the coolest things about Urban Peace Squad is that you initially you see this beautiful familiar face and you think we are going to talk about beauty and ten she gets you like... nahhhhh, we're here to talk about PEACE! and you begin hitting people at the core and you then began creating a space where people can be open and candid. So the response has been overwhelming and I think is has been overwhelming because you realize everybody has a story. Everyone is going through something, has been going through something, or will go through something.
And its so interesting in how similar we are. We did a live instagram this summer and the direct feedback was amazing because people we asking, "When is the next one?" and "Where are you guys doing this?" So you realize, "WOW" there is a real need for this and more importantly anyone can create this type of space within their own communities and within their homes to have these conversations. And really, that is what we are doing. We are pushing the envelope on conversation where ever we show up."
Bre: "When I give eye contact, when I give hugs, when I give touch all those things matter and I have to literally say to myself sometimes that, "I am not alone on any island. if it matters to me, then I know it matters to someone else...to be seen and to receive. The importance of really asking, "How was your day?" or "How can I support you?" and realize that in those moments and when asked those questions you are not alone. That is really what my workshop is all about because that is where the healing process begins. Honestly, it just starts with saying, "You are not alone."
I don't think there would be a community called "Urban Peace Squad" if we didn't love on each other and acknowledge the presence of each other while we are there."
ART LIVING: "Why is it so important to not only give back, but to directly be hands within our own communities?"
MENTAL HEALTH SPECIALIST . PERFORMING ARTIST . EDUCATOR . COMMUNITY ACTIVIST
Mimi: "So, I am a licensed social worker and like I said before, Urban Peace Squad is aligned with the work I do daily. I work with incarcerated youth. Bre mentioned visibility and that's important because people want to be seen and people want to know that you see them. Even when my students say something to me on Monday I am following back up with them on Thursday, because I want them to know I am paying attention. I believe Dr. Cornell West said it best, hopefully I am quoting this as the right quote but I believe it goes like, "You can't lead the people if you don't know the people. And I think its important that we are so hands on. Which is why we say, "We are in the trenches." I can't lead you if I don't know you. I am really big on knowing your name and face, making eye contact, getting to know your story, being there when you are happy and when you are sad. That is the work we do and what we are passionate about."
ART LIVING: How do you guys center yourselves to get back you your happy in the midst of the work you do?
Mimi: "I started reading again, I started writing in my journal again, and really I am just marching to my own beat. If I want to put on my oils that day then I just go with that you know. I've just been pulling from my basket full of goodies when I need to."
ART LIVING: "What is your wish for the future of the urban community?"
Bre: "I wish for peace. I wish Black men so much peace and internal peace. Because I see them struggle a lot within themselves and it actually speaks symbolic to what is going on with them. I wish them a journey back to self. I really do. I wish depression was talked about more with men and wasn't seen as a weakness. I wish suicide was talked about more in urban communities especially with men. And I wish they let this burden go that they have to do everything and allow us women to be partners...sisters, wives, aunts, mother's whatever. That is my wish a better space for men to bloom because they deserve to bloom too. Men deserve flowers too.
ART LIVING: Ladies this was so, so, good. Thank you for all that you do!
Checkout our exclusive photos from the interview and of us pretty brown girls getting real out yoga and community healing.
Checkout our *BONUS footage of this interview and founder Shea Zèphir getting in on Bre's impromptu private yoga session at the conclusion of the interview.
All photos and video have been captured and edited by J. Mandela of www.lostartbk.com media and production company.