South Side Stories Spotlight, December 2014: Bedroom Culture and Providing Safe Spaces for Youth

Each month, Ci3’s South Side Stories features digital stories that spotlight the lives of adolescents and young adults from the South Side of Chicago. In December, we considered bedroom culture and safe spaces for youth. As we all think of things to be grateful for this holiday season, South Side Stories considers those places where young people feel safe and those people who support them.

This topic is particularly poignant as last month, the Chicago community lost one of its own, Brother Mike Hawkins. We take this occasion to honor him and others who create safe spaces for young people. Brother Mike collaborated on some of our earliest digital stories and we will cherish his memory.

brother mike

Brother Mike Hawkins, right, with a student in an early digital storytelling workshop. Photo: Seed Lynn

Click here for the full December Spotlight, including broader implications and a resource guide.

Click here for the November Spotlight.

First in this month’s stories, two young women share narratives that allow us to step inside their most sacred spaces: their bedrooms.  For decades, scholars have theorized about teenage “bedroom culture,” a phrase coined by McRobbie and Garber (1975). For teenage girls, bedrooms were originally conceived of as ideal settings for escaping domestic duties and pursuing home-based leisure activities. Decades later, teenage girls on the South Side of Chicago remind us of the importance of privacy. In their stories, Mariah and Tyana describe the different ways in which their personal spaces respond to their individual needs and lives.

In Precious Things, Mariah reflects on why she spends so much time in her room. With vibrantly colored walls, Mariah’s bedroom is decorated with a number of artifacts that help to keep some of her fondest memories alive. She recognizes that her bedroom is a refuge but asks herself, “What am I trying to escape?” Ultimately, she concludes that her room represents more than simply an escape from the world outside. “It’s my own personal time capsule,” she explains, “where every precious memory finds a home.”

In contrast, Tyana describes her room in Family Life as the place where she escapes from the arguments that occur between her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. The room’s thin white walls don’t actually help to keep the sounds out, so Tyana finds herself feeling “stuck with nowhere to go and no one to love.” Rather than finding comfort or refuge from the outside world, Tyana’s room becomes the space where she questions both her worth and self-beauty. “I wonder, is it me?” she asks aloud. “Am I ugly? Am I not perfect for my own family?”

Finally, in Waiting for the Bell Ava describes being isolated and lonely at school. She pushes open the heavy school door and hears laughter, which might just be a joke or might be people laughing at her. Yet once the school bell rings and the day ends, she has a place that she can go to.  There, “the doors were lighter, the room was brighter, my voice triumphed, and my presence was honored.”

South Side Stories is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation.

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