Trauma Informed Awareness Day 2023 - Youth Takeover Recap

July 18, 2023

Trauma-Informed Awareness Day 2023 Youth Takeover Recap


Trauma-Informed Awareness Day is a state-wide recognition of childhood adversity that highlights the importance of prevention, community resilience, and trauma-informed care. 

On May 25, 2023 Bright Promises participated in Trauma-Informed Awareness Day by featuring the voices of the Bright Promises Youth Council, a group of youth leaders representing organizations participating in the Healing, Leading, Changing initiative. Over the course of a year, these youth leaders are work together in a community council to cultivate a space that amplifies and advances the impact of their participatory practices for racial and healing justice.

Through a day-long social media takeover, these youth leaders were invited to respond to two main questions: A) What does being trauma-informed mean to you? B) What does healing-centered mean to you? 

The Bright Promises Youth Council took over Bright Promises’ social channels and shared resources, personal reflections, and other original content related to the Trauma-Informed Awareness Day 2023 theme, "Trauma-Informed, Healing Centered".

Personal Reflections: Poetry, Podcasts, and Essays

Several youth leaders chose to respond to the questions  “What does being trauma-informed mean to you?” and “What does healing-centered mean to you?” through reflections on their own lived experiences in the forms of poetry, podcasts, photo collages, and personal essays.

Personal reflection had an important and powerful impact on the experience of the youth leaders who participated on the Bright Promises Youth Council. “My personal experience with housing instability, which I really got the opportunity to process through the self-reflections as part of the Bright Promises Youth Council, was a major part of my inspiration for this poem,” said Nelly, a youth leader representing Palenque LSNA.

Michaela, a youth leader representing LUV Institute shared a similar experience on the Youth Council, “In order to accurately describe the experience of black women in my environment, I created a poem titled, ‘Dear Black Girl’. Although this poem was inspired by my own personal experiences and the memories of many other Black women in my community, the main inspiration for the poem came from a self-work reflection we did that surrounded the topic of identity.”

 JJ McNeal, Bright Promises Youth Council Guide reinforces the importance of engaging in and sharing personal reflections as a healing practice. “Moving through wellness in a trauma-informed way, to me, means investing in Self-Reflection and Deep Listening. As professionals, as community members, as lovers, as breathers, these are two of many ingredients we can cultivate deeply, and intentionally in our healthy socioemotional ecosystems.”

For Trauma Informed Awareness Day, Michaela, a youth leader from LUV Institute and member of the Bright Promises Youth Council, wrote this poem reflecting on her identity as a Black woman.

Dear Black Girl

By: Michaela

The sun amidst the darkness

You walk with hesitance on the earth that birthed you

On the soil that nourished you

Ignorant to the power you behold

Unaware of your stripped innocence

Your name was stolen

You were dreadly marked upon arrival from the womb

“You are doused in the gravest of sin”

The tenderness in your spirit grew thin

Your supple skin shriveled at the slightest touch

Your hair brittle and cut

Black girl, you are the sun concealed by the greyest of clouds

Your heart creates rhymes replicating smooth jazz and echoing symphonies

That can only be felt in the depths of the soul

Through your skin I’d create stories and folktales the human brain couldn't imagine

Id help you see that your hair has a soul

It has mind of its own and it roams

Lingering and weaving its way to heal those it touches

Cry no more

Wipe those beautiful brown eyes

You are the muse

Black girl, you are the sun concealed by the greyest of clouds

You are your mothers prayer

You are the laughter of your daughters

You are the flow of your sisters hips on a friday night

Your grandmother's hopes and dreams

You are me

And I am you

Black girl, you are the sun concealed by the greyest of clouds


In order to accurately describe the experience of black women in my environment, I created a poem titled, “Dear Black Girl”. Although this poem was inspired by my own personal experiences and the memories of many other Black women in my community, the main inspiration for the poem came from a self-work reflection that surrounded the topic of identity.

During this exercise, I was able to question my own beliefs and step outside of my comfort zone to truly see how I see myself and how others see me. Unfortunately, with this came confusion and a common shame for my community because not all of the identities that I, or other Black women have, are widely accepted. For example, the race of a Black woman can largely impact how she is treated, viewed, and allowed to operate in society.

Throughout the course of the poem, reflections of triumph, self reflection, and self love are discussed in order to depict the process of growing up as a Black woman. Not only does the poem show the beauty of our racial identity, but the struggle it takes to recognize it ourselves given the stigmatism others place on it. Furthermore, the poem addresses the connections between community and family in Black families. Throughout generations, culture and physical features are passed down, and are unfortunately deemed “unattractive” because they don’t fit the beauty standards that we see in today’s media. Hopefully, with this poem I can shed light on how the expectations of the outside world affects the mentality and self confidence of most Black girls, and increases their insecurities.

For Trauma Informed Awareness Day, Nelly, a youth leader on the Bright Promises Youth Council representing Palenque LSNA, wrote a poem about her personal experience with housing insecurity and the trauma that people affected by gentrification experience.


by Nelly

As she walks down the street,

She can no longer feel

The same warmth of the atmosphere she used to feel.

And the houses, the people, the plants are no longer the same. 

As she closes her eyes, she remembers the smell coming from the Mexican restaurant as she used to walk home from school,

Which reminds her of her hometown in her native land.

As the tears roll down her cheeks, she embraces the anger, the fear and despair 

That the luxury of the privileged people causes her to feel,

And equals her family’s displacement. 

As she looks around, and recognizes that she is standing on the unfamiliar, inhospitable land,

She clenches her knuckles, and her heart skips a beat

Every time a desperate thought passes through her mind. 

Crushed and hopeless, she slowly sits down on the refreshing grass and closes her eyes,

And the wounding memories suddenly appear.

She recalls being five and going to the park near her house with her parents,

Watching squirrels, chasing dogs, playing on the playground.

She recalls being ten and going to the same movie theater that was just a walk away.

Her school friends and she gather at the same time outside before the movies starts to buy ice cream from the paletero.

She recalls being happy and free,

Living in the cozy little house with a little garden that her grandmother started back when she was still young.

As she opens her eyes,

She no longer feels the presence of joy in her life,

As the wretchedness of her displacement seems to confine her.

Frustrated and exhausted she stands up and wipes the tears from her cheeks.

The flame in her eyes sparks and she regains strength in her legs,

As she realizes that there isn’t a thing

That she desires more than

Fighting for what she and thousands of her people find to be just.

And she gathers her thoughts and spirit,

And she walks away with a promise in her heart,

To strive to spark a change with all her might.

For Trauma Informed Awareness Day, based on the personal experience with housing instability, and on the work I’ve done as part of Palenque, and the self-reflections as part of the Bright Promises Youth Council, I decided to share a poem I wrote about the trauma that people affected by gentrification experience, as well as 2 photos, and a quote which are very representative of this issue. 

I love how these photos remind me of the significance of using collaborative powers within our communities to fight for affordable housing, which is an essential part of healing together as a community. Additionally, the quote is a straightforward representation of how essential having access to housing is to every single individual. 

Finally, the piece I wrote was a product of my inspiration after doing research about the effects of gentrification on the people’s quality of life, and how it contributes to the formation of trauma. This experience is especially painful for people whose families had lived in the house for several generations, before they were unjustifiably displaced.

My personal experience with housing instability, which I really got the opportunity to process through the self-reflections as part of the Bright Promises Youth Council, was also a major part of my inspiration for this poem. I believe that while healing from the damage the unequitably distributed resources have delivered to our communities, we need to make sure we continue to fight for affordable housing, to ensure that every single person has an affordable, stable, and dignified housing, as it is essential to human flourishing. 

“Housing is a human right. There can be no fairness or justice in a society in which some live in homelessness, or in the shadow of that risk, while others cannot even imagine it.”

― Jordan Flaherty, Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six

Two key ingredients in my recipe for trauma-informed care for myself, as well as the healing others.

A reflection by Bright Promises Youth Council Guide JJ McNeal

Deep listening, and reflection (at many levels of depth) are two key trauma-informed ingredients incorporated into my recipe of my own care, which then further influences my approach to working in solidarity with others. Examining deeper listening was one of the popular guidelines in justice work that we used in the Bright Promises Youth Council (BYPC) to help foster thoughtful sharing space. We also used reflection as the base of our personal work in this experience.

While there is a surge of interest in self-care to address everyday stress, I’ve found that for myself, a lot of the popular shares seem to lack understanding about or acknowledgement of systems of trauma embedded in our cultures. Trauma can change the way our brains and bodies work. The social impacts of trauma are many and varying, so there is no universal “fix”. Even still, these strategies we’re seeing shared more and more are, in my view, a unique form of mutual aid and care, sharing reminders and resources can be great starting points to kickstart an approach customized to meet our needs, helping us better navigate our path through wellness.

On the subject of memory, for a lot of folks, trauma impacts their memories and or recalling ability, such as not remembering important details surrounding life events (traumatic or otherwise). With this in mind, I’ve been making it a practice to encourage myself and those I work alongside to especially consider the power of reflection. Many aspects of our lives essentially demand we think ahead, and move ahead swiftly. While it’s necessary at times, it can be stressful to be darting forward, produce, and it can push people to disassociate in a way that strains their recall abilities about/around their experiences. It can be difficult to make sense of what’s happening, how we got “here”, or even the source of what we’re experiencing.

“What’s new? What’s next?!”

We’re often asked or pushed to ask “What’s new? What’s next?!”. So I want to remember to add some questions in other directions as well- which can be more stressful, adding to the pot, but hopefully designed with our capabilities and needs in mind, potentially leading to great reward. I am developing myself to consider reflecting more and exploring which tools and methods are most alluring/practical to us. As a space holder, I’ve been moving to intentionally seek out moments to offer time, tools, or even just gentle reminders to incorporate reflection into the work or the experience.

An example of a reflective tool relevant to a lot of folks is cameras and recorders. I want to see the people I love, myself included, take more photos and videos for ourselves. The internet highway often makes people feel they should be snapping for performances and views, centering others over ourselves, and sometimes we’re then forgetting to use tools to aid in our own self-reflection. This can help us understand our joy and pain, our assumptions and truths, our curiosities, so much more. Listening and sharing can help us make sense of how our experiences connect us to those near and far

Photos, notes, inside jokes, screenshots, mementos, objects symbolizing meaning, casual videos, creative works- the range continues on for what things have meaning to us that are special and specific. Sometimes they may not mean something to others, be profitable, etc., but they can be worth saving and revisiting for ourselves. I want to feel myself and my communities doing this more, for many reasons and hopeful rewards that come with practicing care for ourselves and each other.

Investing in Self-Reflection and Deep Listening

This season with the BPYC, we asked the representatives to take time to reflect in ways that center themselves first, instead of just producing reflections solely for the consumption/approval of others. The task was often to have a conversation with ourselves first, and then consider if/when/how we may then invite others to witness some of that reflection. This led us into introductory discussions on deep listening when witnessing others share, listing to hear, and offering present energy, rather than “waiting to respond/have our turn” or “fixing” what we perceive to be missing/needed for others. To listen deeply involves listening, from a receptive, and caring place. Listen intently to the feelings beneath the words of others, and ourselves.

Moving through wellness in a trauma-informed way, to me, means investing in Self-Reflection and Deep Listening. As professionals, as community members, as lovers, as breathers, these are two of many ingredients we can cultivate deeply, and intentionally in our healthy socioemotional ecosystems. I hope we can all continue to explore and strive for a balance between listening and reflecting, speaking and acting.


This podcast by Bright Promises Youth Council members Amira and Mohammed representing Arab American Action Network reflects on how recent incidents of police brutality in their community have impacted them and how they are unlocking their voices and tapping into their collective power through protest.

Saraid created this collection of photos to represent what being trauma-informed and healing centered means to them.

Photo Collage by Saraid

What does being #traumainformed and #healingcentered mean to Saraid, a member of the Bright Promises Youth Council representing Palenque LSNA?

"Being healing-centered means embracing a trauma-informed approach where individuals and communities feel nurtured, supported, safe, and empowered. It involves recognizing the impact trauma has by creating safe spaces that promote these important discussions.

By fostering empathy, understanding, and a culture of care, communities can embark on a collective journey towards ensuring that schools, communities, and cities become spaces where everyone's unique needs are met. Together as a community we are able to build a foundation for a compassionate and trauma-informed society that embraces healing and promotes the well-being of all."

Research & Advocacy Projects

Engaging in research, including identifying and sharing trauma-informed resources, played an important role in creating a healing experience for the youth leaders on the Bright Promises Youth Council. Through research and discussion, Youth Council members were able to increase their knowledge and understanding of racial trauma and identify tools that support individual and community healing. 

For Trauma-Informed Awareness Day, several Youth Council members recommended resources that were most helpful to them, including organizations to follow, articles to read, and personal research projects.

Organizations to Follow

The youth leaders of the Bright Promises Youth Council recommend checking out these #traumainformed and #healingcentered resources:

Zalayah, a youth leader representing Girls Inc. of Chicago on the Bright Promises Youth Council recommends that you follow @youthformentalhealth. "Youth for Mental Health is a youth organization that offers many mental health resources. It is important for youth to lead organizations as they can relate in their own lived experiences. Without mental health support, there is no way to understand or heal from trauma." - Zalayah

Ava is a youth leader from Girls Inc. of Chicago and member of the Bright Promises Youth Council. She recommends you follow Gyrls In The HOOD Foundation. "H.O.O.D stands for HEALTHY, OPTIMISTIC, OUTSTANDING, AND DETERMINED. Gyrls in the Hood serves girls in the SouthSide of Chicago and provides resources so that they may live a healthy life."

Michaela, a youth leader from The LUV Institute, recommends Gyrl Wonder, a nonprofit that empowers Black and Brown girls. Amaya from Alternatives recommends The Empower Lab.

Saniya, a Bright Promises Youth Council member representing Chicago Freedom School, created a list of recommended resources for youth who have experienced trauma caused by gun violence.

"In a time of uncertainty, hatred, and change, youth have been exposed to inexplicable trauma at a young age that has the potential to impact the rest of their lives. Events and actions like gun violence and domestic violence tear apart their communities, leaving harrowing results on the way they view the world and themselves," Saniya reflects, "However, there are ways they can aid themselves through this crisis, some of which are listed below."

BUILD Chicago (Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development) is a gang intervention, violence prevention, and youth development organization based in Chicago’s West Side. They work to provide support and opportunities in order to save and mentor young people facing systematic obstacles. Their goals are to provide skills in advocacy, empowerment, and achievement. Learn more at

Center on Halsted is an organization that works to provide support through crisis counseling and legal advocacy to those who have survived advocacy and discrimination. Additionally, they also work to provide support to LBGTQ+ youth in danger. They can be contacted at (773) 871-2273 or

Chicago Citizens for Change is an organization formed to support families and survivors of homicides and gun violence. They work to support any and all Chicago survivors through immediate crisis intervention, support counseling, and criminal justice. Find out more or seek support at

Statewide Victim Assistance (SVA) Program is an initiative that works with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to provide assistance to survivors, witnesses, and service providers across Illinois. They work to achieve their goals through direct victim assistance, which includes victim and witness notification, prosecution assistance, victim’s rights advocacy, crime victim compensation, and referrals. Learn more or seek assistance at

Strides for Peace Chicago is dedicated to creating a city where everyone can thrive without the fear of gun violence, They work to harness the power of different non-profit and community organizations to create collective action and information in order to provide new pathways and opportunities. They can be contacted at

3 Homegirls No Gun is a youth-made podcast about high school students and their experience with gun violence. It was created by two Seniors and a Junior living in Los Angeles, California, and their experience with school shootings in their area. The episode “It’s Been 2 Years…” specifically focuses on their experiences coming back to school after remote learning, coping with gun violence, and other relevant issues. They also have several other episodes focusing on other issues youth face daily like sexual harassment, self-care, activism, and much more. It is available on Apple, Google, and Spotify through

Articles to Read

"People tend to try to ignore their trauma in hopes that it will go away. This is one of the worst ways to deal with trauma. It’s important to remember that ignoring or avoiding symptoms of trauma isn’t a healthy coping response (in fact, avoiding them can make things worse)." - Aryian

Aryian, a youth leader from UCAN and member of the Bright Promises Youth Council, recommends these tips on how to heal from trauma (Source:

Seek proper therapy

Maybe you’re already aware of your trauma and want to take the next step. Or maybe you’re having trouble figuring out the cause of the trauma that’s manifesting in your everyday life. In both cases, a trauma-informed therapist will be your best ally in the healing process.

Learn your triggers

It’s especially hard when a trauma response hits you when you don’t expect it. You may be at the grocery store or getting gas, and suddenly, a trigger catches you off guard and you feel an immense sense of danger or dread. To help prevent such a reaction, it’s important to learn about your own trauma triggers and what might set them off.

Try guided meditation

If your brain is constantly bombarded by horrible memories, both meditation and mindfulness can be a healing practice.

Practice self-care

In your head, there may be two actors running the show: You and your trauma. So, if your trauma causes you to be unkind or harmful to yourself, it’s important to work against it.

What does it mean to Amaya, a youth leader from Alternatives, to be trauma-informed and healing centered?

"Healing is experienced collectively, and is shaped by shared identity such as race, gender, or sexual orientation. Healing centered engagement is the result of building a healthy identity, and a sense of belonging." - Amaya

Check out this resource recommended by Amaya about the future of healing trauma:…

Research & Advocacy Projects

Pictured: Shujaa and Drea presenting at the 2023 American Educational Research Association Conference

“As Black and Brown students in this country, our trauma lies deep in America’s history of bondage . To heal, we must educate, and to educate we must research.” - Shujaa, Bright Promises Youth Council Member

Shujaa is a member of the Bright Promises Youth Council representing the Chicago Freedom School. Together with fellow youth abolitionists Drea, Shujaa presented at the 2023 American Educational Research Association Conference to shed light on abolition efforts in order to create more effective and healthy learning environments. Here, they made connections between surveillance tactics that were used on enslaved peoples & how that has carried over into educational spaces for youth.

Keyare is a member of the Bright Promises Youth Council representing Chicago Freedom School. For Trauma Informed Awareness Day, Keyare reflected on examples of racial trauma that occur in school.

Photo 1: "Students in 2022 did a walk out to CPS headquarters  to voice their demands of safety amid COVID-19, and for their voices to be heard.This walk out was caused by the generation trauma from cps schools and how our youth was unheard and overlooked. The problems that cps students have be encountering and have been forced to be quiet On this day a cps student said “We don’t think that is fair or right that Lori Lightfoot makes these decisions about our lives, and we have to sit through it but we don’t get any say,” said Lux de la Garza, a student at Solorio Academy High School in Gage Park."

Photo 2: "Englewood STEM is a high school that was built to replace other south side schools. STEM was rebuilt in place of Paul Robeson . When the first year STEM opened there were a lot of fights and bad names being brought upon the newly built school. People were already putting in  trauma from other schools and workplaces . Stem was fastly named a bad and “ ghetto “ school. As the years continued the stem highschool has gotten worse. More fights emerged, more people came and forced and took away from Englewood STEM. It was also that there was no help for the students. The students were positioned to be a part of the generational trauma from other schools, and also not receiving help."

Photo 3: "Cops out of CPS was a movement created to help the CPS students safety and to also get back the police funding and use it for more resourceful things for the cps students . This took place in Chicago's south loop at  CPS Board of Education More than 30 Chicago high schools have voted to redirect money spent on uniformed police officers to alternative behavioral and mental health supports a year after intense student-led protests put a microscope on the role of cops in public schools. Only 31 high schools choose to remove at least one of the two officers typically stationed inside their buildings. Which isn’t much of a change or stops the violence, harm , or trauma that they have seen or that have been involved into."

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