Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Teens With a Purpose… Makes Moves to Change the World

Teens With a Purpose… Makes Moves to Change the World

The name of the collective says it all…Teens With a Purpose… The Movement!

A name so undeniably powerful that when correctly deciphered becomes the definitive solution to the unanswerable question of, “How do we save our teenage populace?”

In my humblest opinion, I don’t believe there is any better way to save our youth than to empower them with the abilities and resources to save themselves… and this is what TWP sets out to accomplish.

I was extremely humbled and honored to be invited to speak again this year at the 2nd Annual Teens With A Purpose Silent Auction & Gala in Norfolk, Virginia with special guest of honor and board member Al Roker of NBC’s Today Show in support of such an important cause.

And just hours after arriving with very little sleep, the speech began to writ
e itself in my head as if it was always destined to be given this way… “I want you all to know that Deirdre Love and I caught the very same disease… at the very same time…”

I was speaking about my co-worker and good friend, Founder & Executive Director of TWP, who in 2008 had begun to share with me her truest mission in life. It just so happened to be at the same time I was running around as Co-founder of the “What Is Your Next Stop?” campaign with Actress April Lee Hernandez, while we tried to educate the youth about the importance of their next stop in life…

Our missions were identical – actively working towards empowering the youth to find their own self worth– and giving them the real world education necessary to understand that they had the power to become productive members of society no matter what conditions they were being raised in.

The disease Dee and I both caught – most likely in the water cooler at work – made us both allergic to money and financial stability. It made us care more about humanity, than currency, a very rare disease to say the least. And not a disease many would care to become infected with in the materialistic society we’ve all become so accustomed to.

Unfortunately for us, the doctors in Hampton Roads, also known as our friends, had no ability to cure us with their words including, “You’re crazy if you leave a secure position in a billion dollar company, to attempt to save the un-savable teens of this generation…”

That’s not to say that all of our friends were against what we were doing, many were extremely
supportive, while others simply couldn’t see the vision we had.

But at the end of the day, Deirdre and I had to make our own paths in life, and I’m happy to report that neither one of us listened to reason, we stayed the course. And while our approaches were a little different; our conviction was unshakeable as we both set out in separate directions while walking the very same path.

Deirdre began to work hard to promote the TWP movement in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, while I returned to ground zero here in the South Bronx, trying to establish my own movement of positive change for the youth.

We stayed in touch and I was always happy to hear about her progress with TWP, even though my campaign was failing miserably as financial supporters continued to back away from promises, leaving me with nothing more than an empty bank account and broken dreams as the economy continued to plummet further and further into despair.

I recall one meeting April Lee and I had with a millionaire who looked us dead in the eyes and said, “You make your fortune first, you write a check and you call it a day… That’s charity!”

One of the most powerful men in New York City had just told us that our vision of bettering the lives of the youth was meaningless… We walked towards the South Street Seaport with tears in our eyes and broken spirits…

That meeting was the beginning of the end for the “What Is Your Next Stop?” campaign.

And it became apparent to me that when these services were needed at their peak, they weren’t going to be available.

Programs for the poor and underserved have and always will be the victims of a downturn in the economy, leaving the rich to duck, run and cover up their money… while the underserved youth are left to stand on corners playing deadly games of killing time and sometimes themselves and each other. All the while witnessing their single parents stand on lines 3 blocks long hoping to get dinner at the neighborhood food bank…

Capitalist America, at it’s best!

Educator and Historian Alfred Whitney Griswold once wrote, “Self-respect cannot be hunted. It cannot be purchased. It is never for sale. It cannot be fabricated out of public relations. It comes to us when we are alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places, when we suddenly realize that, knowing the good, we have done it; knowing the beautiful, we have served it; knowing the truth we have spoken it…”

It is a statement that defines the beliefs we must instill in our youth, for once they accept this as a way of life, as opposed to the do-or-die, get rich or die trying, gangster mentalities so ingrained in their psyches, it is only then that we can begin to turn the direction of their lives around for the better.

Teens With Purpose is a movement that sets out to instill self-respect into the psyches of these creative, talented and beautiful young people. So that once the light begins to shine in their heads and their hearts, it can never be dulled, dimmed or put out again.

TWP’s most important contribution to society will most certainly revolve around the fact that they are educating and empowering their peers in ways very rarely seen. And they’re doing it through the power of song, dance, acting and spoken word…

On Saturday morning (10/26/2010) TWP took over the Lamberts Point Community Center in Norfolk, Virginia and gave the youth a taste of what it meant to be a move maker… A person who takes those initial steps to invoke positive change in their lives…

And it felt so beautiful to see all of the young people singing, dancing, smiling and laughing… It felt right…

The internal pride was sparked inside of me as I listened to Emeka (Soul), Richard (Testimony), Sylvantria (One Word) & RaShay (King Ti) sing, “You don’t understand I was made to be different…” for what they were singing about was understanding and hope…

And as Testimony broke out into spoken word he recited, “You don’t understand I’m different from those who go through the motions in life likes waves and call it living…”

It was a young mans cry to his peers to stand up and realize that life is not dictated nor defined by their environment, but more so by their own beliefs in their God given right to be different, to be accepted and to be respected…

Deirdre Love became different the moment she caught this disease of love and humanity… and decided to act upon it…

Al Roker, Karen Mantel, Tanya Kearney, Nicole Livas, Queen GodIs and everyone else who
came out to support this worthy event all caught this same disease and in doing so became different…

My girlfriend, Leslie Ann Sastre caught the bug of being different during this event, when she jumped out of her chair and donated a great deal of money to help this movement continue to build it’s legacy…

As for me, I was just proud to have my first born Heaven Aja there to see just how different her father is… Different enough to hope you all become infected with the disease of humanity…

Teens With Purpose… The name itself speaks to the power of the change that is beginning to manifest itself.

In Loving Memory of Adam...


Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos.


  1. Ivan, every time I have a chance to get through your blogs I am reminded that my life is on the right track. Thank you for that. All my life, I have stumbled upon those that all too quickly assume that youth CAN'T. Being from the same place as you, I know what we had to work against. Here we are though. Adults who stand strong in our purpose. Most people assumed that once I got free from my mother's ever vigilant eye and her strong grasp on my whereabouts that I would run to darker side of the streets. Someone took the time to notice that I had more than streets to identify me. I had talent, a will and a need for guidance. Someone took the time and challenge of making a place for me and other young people like me who wanted for more than the life we were born into of poverty and struggle. We have a chance to inspire our future.... I know that someone will one day say the same about you, Ms. April Lee and me because we cared enough to stop and appreciate our beautiful young people.

  2. I'm very proud of you and honored to have you as my friend! You are the epitome of strength and leadership with a relentless drive to save our youth from destruction delivering hope and uplifting spirits along the way. YOU ARE truly blessed. If ever in doubt "He" (God) lives in you I know this for sure.... Thank you for your wonderful blogs and being our voice. (at least mine)