When WHY LOVE started back in 2020, the goal was simple: to bring together and empower teenagers to overturn the negative forces in their lives.

It originated as a concept for teens to develop and create original musicals based on their own lives and experiences by The Possibility Project, a program that uses performing arts to empower Brooklyn teenagers — the majority of who are low-income youth — to transform the negative forces in their lives into positive impact. 

The teens would meet every Saturday crafting stories in rehearsal to prepare for a performance at The Riverside Theater in May 2020. But when the pandemic put everything on hold, they had to cancel the premiere of the show and pivot to podcasting in order to tell their stories.

For many of the teens in the program, using audio equipment was a learning curve. Two cast members, Megan Perez and Lissenny Florentino, originally felt fear, but eventually got comfortable using their voices to express their written feelings.

“It was an interesting process at first because it was something I’d never done before, but I felt a lot less fear doing it with a group of amazingly talented people,” ” Perez said.

“We were all expecting the show to be on stage, so this was something different, but I was really happy with the outcome.”

At the start of the program, the castmates spend time doing activities with each other and sharing their life stories. “It becomes emotional for the entire cast,” Florentino said. “We create a strong bond, which later leads us to enjoy ourselves more when we’re creating the actual show.”

WHY LOVE cast members on zoom. Photo: Supplied

After sharing stories and concepts, the castmates came together to write. But while their stories are based on each other’s lives, they never play their own roles, instead embodying the essence of various characters. 

The podcast follows five stories: Lauryn and Davinci, a couple struggling with their relationship and their home lives; Jasmine, a granddaughter dealing with her grandmother’s mortality; Maria, a young woman trying to come to terms with the patterns of abuse in her life; Aster and Lotus, two friends whose families are poor and struggling to survive; and Quinn, the oldest sibling in a family with an abusive father. 

The stories aren’t just an outlet for the youth, they can be a positive influence on other young people struggling with their own personal issues in private, Perez said. 

“It can feel very isolating, not only physically but emotionally,” Perez said. “Nobody understands how difficult it can be, so our show is trying to give a hug to the people that are going through these things and be like you’re not alone.”

That is the theme of WHY LOVE: to focus on the concept of love and how a world devoid of it can have a detrimental impact.

“We want people to understand that love is important and why we need it in our lives,” Florentino said.

The Possibility Project Founder and President Paul Griffin said the teens were looking at the concept of love and the meaning of that “in a world where there’s a lot of corruption, violence, conflict and racism.” 

“It’s a conversation around the question of what’s the point of love?” he said.

Griffin added that he wanted the teens to know there was a way to resolve the conflicts and overcome the obstacles they faced — and that they can’t do it alone. 

“They’re going to need support, and I want general audiences to understand how powerful and talented and amazing young people are when they’ve been given the time and space to shine.”

The Possibility Project has three programs: the Saturday program (open to all youth), the Foster Care Program for foster care youth, and the Youth Justice Program for court-involved youth. You can listen to the WHY LOVE podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and other platforms.

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Yannise Jean

Yannise Jean is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in publications like Okayplayer and Well + Good. Follow her on Twitter @yjeanwrites.

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