I was born and raised in one of the most dangerous and impoverished cities in America, I woke up daily frustrated and discontent. Finding more became a priority. I traveled outside of the country, I read books outside of the school curriculum, I ate new foods, I started my own business. Experiencing life became my peace. - JP, Camden, NJ

I lost my father to the streets at a young age but I've never quite moved on. The first love of my life, the man who is said to love you when no other guy does, daddy was gone and so was I. Who knew you could miss someone so much that you barely even knew? I blamed him for the times in my life when I was alone and i'd curse him back to life wishing he loved me more than he loved the streets.I tried prayer, I tried addressing it head on but it didn't help me move on all it did was make me feel anger, start to cry and feel pity. The one thing I avoided trying was forgiving me and the people in my life that I felt weren't there for me. People make...
forgiveness sound so easy but it’s the hardest thing I've ever had to do and I had to make a conscious decision to be present in the act of forgiving myself. Peace means love. When you feel loved you work the hardest, you smile the most, you're at your happiest. When you feel loved nothing else matters and that is peace. - Bianca

I was born to a single mother and 25 year sentenced incarcerated father. My family has been ravaged by drugs, mass incarceration and economic disparities on both sides. Growing up in a small urban city with very few opportunities I always felt kids like me deserved more! I dared to expand my horizons even if it meant I was looked at as weird. I've survived to to tell the stories of those who have no voice. I find my peace through writing, filmmaking, traveling, therapy and yoga.- Akiya, Connecticut 

Wake up. Shoot up some brown. Sleep. Wake up. Smoke some crack. I'm ready for work but I just got fired. I'm too sad so I’ll smoke some dust. I've smoked way too much. I need to relax. Let's bump some Xanax. I'm falling asleep. Let's drink some vodka! Vodka is yummy, but I'm broke, so I need the cheap shit. Now I'm drunk. I'm crying. I want to die. Let me call my mom. I can't call her. I'm yellow. I haven't showered in days. My clothes are dirty. I smell nasty. Maybe I can call my best friend. Wait, I didn't go to her father’s funeral. I want to die. Let’s shoot up again. I had a rough day. I've got no money. I'll figure it out. My boyfriend hates me. He's choked me. He threw all shit out on the street. It's 4am. I can't go home. Look at my arms. Track marks, burns, slit wrists. I want to die. Oh wait, my... 
boyfriend let me in the house! I'll suck him off. He'll let me stay but he kicked me out. I'll fight to stay. I stay. I'll shoot up some more. I don't want to wake up. Let's hope I don't wake up. I'll smoke some rock now. Ran out, I want to die. Grab a fistful of pills. What the fuck am I doing? Wake up in hospital. For a couple of years, my life was like that. Eventually, I ended up going to rehab. I've been 4 years clean of hard drugs but I'm still working on the alcohol. I haven't had much to drink except champagne on the day I got married back in July. After becoming clean, I ended up going back to college, got a certificate to be a nail technician then graduated from college with a Criminal Justice degree. I’m also the first in my family to graduate college! I’ve also started up my nail business, Nailphomaniac, which I'm extremely proud of! I think peace for me is knowing that I'm working hard, everyday. Grinding everyday to make my mama proud. Something else that keeps me at peace is swimming. I was a competitive swimmer and a scholar athlete. Currently, I’m back in school to get my Cosmetology license. The grind never stops! I've been working 7 days a week. I’ve been going to school full time 5 days a week. I'm tired as hell, but doing what I love, expressing myself through the art of doing nails, or a bomb ass new hair cut, or a few laps in a pool makes me happy and puts me at peace. I'm still a work in progress on a mission to find more peace, because let's face it, the world we live in, we fight off demons everyday. Everyday in New York is a constant battle for me. I'm slowly trying to continuously find inner peace. But right now working hard for a better future, a better future for my future kids and my mama is what I call peace. - Nathalie, Rochelle, NY

My story is that of a simple one. Learning to begin my journey of self love and strength. I made a definitive decision in middle school that I wanted to become an actress, but I wasn't sure if I ever would be able to become one. In my young impressionable mind, society had tainted my view of myself and what I thought an actress should be or look like. I was over weight, had nappy hair and dark skin. How could I ever make it in a world that only praised the very opposite of my aesthetic?What made me heal from that was God and school to be quite honest. My family and friends as well, always encouraging me to be the best I can be and that I am all that and then some. I only miss 100% of the opportunities
I don't take and they were absolutely right. I applied for SUNY Purchase's BFA Acting Conservatory and actually got in! I was ecstatic. I couldn't believe it. The schools philosophy is that in order to be a good actor you have to be a good person and you died a thousand times over, but are reborn anew. I mean how can you inhabit different people if you judge everyone, everything, and most importantly yourself? I learned how to find what I bring to the table and magnetize it, and then I learned that I AM THE TABLE and God strengthened all of that as I went along my journey. My freshman year I got Locs and was nervous about getting roles but then realized this is who I am and since I don't see enough of my beautiful loc'd beauties on TV I MUST be the representation for that...for them...for us.
To me peace means serenity. It means being all one with yourself in the universe, and it means becoming the master of your soul and understanding that the journey to absolute peace and becoming he master of your soul lasts a lifetime, so enjoy the ride. The good the bad, welcome it all.- Niara, Lower East Side, New York

2015 was the most challenging year of my life. Riddled with sporadic employment, financial strains that I had never experienced before self-doubt, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Poor decisions, my poor thinking, my bad energy… I was a mess, internalizing everything, not sharing my troubles with anyone. I was beating myself up for any and everything so bad that my health was affected. I refused to ask for help because I had this superwoman mentality… but I was so broken that I couldn’t even help myself. I had to be honest with myself, and others, and say I needed help. Mentally it was hard for me but I had to get out of my own way. I will never forget a special friend told me to be “gentle with yourself”.
It stuck with me. Life can be hard as hell, no need to be so hard on yourself. The people that are really there for you do not want to see you hurt and will do any and everything on their power to help you. I was so used to being the one who helped others, I didn’t know how to ask for, or receive help. But of course, parents, family and real friends to the rescue. Peace means being ok with what space you are in at any given moment. It means being so content with where you are in life, that NOTHING can knock you off your #UltraLightBeam. It’s a moment of internal clarity and understand that even if you aren’t where you want to be, you know you are working towards the end goal. - Tola

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The day I told my mother I was moving to California, both of our life paths completely changed. Wanting to be on my own at 18 was just something I was brainwashed with by watching the typical "All American" families on television. Growing up I thought I was no different from what was portrayed on television but of course my mother was there to remind me of the target and time limit I had on my chest as a young black man in America. When I wanted to move and start my life in California, my mother moved out only 20 days within me saying anything. She bought me my dream car and even paid my rent for a few months to make sure there wasn’t reason for me to flee. I mean this lady was pulling ALL strings to keep me in New York!
Trying to live at 18 was impossible even when I had these gifts given to me. I was too busy trying to survive and finish high. Being an artist made it no easier. Eventually,I ended up living in my car with my dog, which was after me attempting to start college and being robbed of everything after only being there for 3 days. I took that as my sign that college wasn't for me. 

My mother eventually moved to North Carolina. After 3 years her being in North Carolina, I moved there to take care of her after finding out she had cancer. While living there, I ran across a story about a sewage leak that happened two years prior to my arrival. The leak was in the exact area my mother had moved to and they said it was causing cancer. By then, it was too late for her but little did I know, my time was just beginning. I drove across the country to California, just me and my dogs.

Fast forward three years after her transition and me being in California, I've been on this cycle year in and year out. Now at 25, I repeat daily "Fear is just an illusion" and keep it at the forefront of all thoughts. We all move at our own pace and we often hear to not wait until we're old to start living our lives and regretting things that you never did. But I'm learning how to master the art of timing and all will happen when it needs to happen. All the things I thought were holding me back were just that. Thoughts. Nothing else. 

I found my peace in being able to create and express my feelings and not caring what the next person feels. As an artist, I've learned paying attention to people's feelings on your vision, it only dims your light. So instead of getting caught up with how others feel, I chose to just make them feel how I want them to. By creating the world you live in and educating the masses. - Chris

Dear Lies,
I once cried every time I glanced at you. I was embarrassed of you. I wanted you to go away because I just knew I would have to relive that night all over again when telling the story of what happened. I once hid you and tried to forget about you. I made up lies because I feared being judged because of you. Until the day I woke up and knew that my life was worth living just as I dreamed and that my lines would be apart of the journey. That I could no longer be my own prisoner. Depression is what they called it. I didn't want to.
See I was supposed to tell my story. Because I was told my strength was admirable and acknowledged. I knew that by simply being proud 
of all those moments that consist of vulnerability and authenticity that I was doing more than I could ever imagine for those walking down the same street as me. I knew that my self love journey would reach people all over the world and let them know there is beauty in your testimony. Live your truth and shine in it. I wear my lies with grace. I love my lines. Without them I wouldn't be who I am today. I am not ashamed. Nor am I ever going to think less of myself because someone doesn't give me approval. Be you, stay true! Do what you love! Be fearless, be bold, be courageous, be empathetic, be inspirational, be motivating, be your best self! Grow and transform into the human being you always aspired to become. Choose love. Trust your journey and have faith that no matter what, you too will still land. And this is when you take that leap. Go head and unleash your magic

It took years of self-discovery. I started practicing yoga in 2010 but did not fully commit to until 2013. Through practicing yoga I gained confidence, self expression, fearlessness, and patience. Shortly after, I began meditatingand that was the game changer. I was able to see my gifts clearer and understand that the future me is already who I am. 

Peace is self-love so deeply rooted that it is felt by others the moment you step into a room. It is a frequency like no other, that we all strive for. It's that neutral place.- A'Tiya

The battle of being a single father has been the hardest but most fulfilling battle I've ever had. While most men are given the the title "dead beat father" in a time where black males are holding up there end of the bargain, I promised myself I would be the same father to my kids as my father was to me; a great one.
The battle for me, has been dealing with the relationship between my children's mother and I. Bitterness in our personal relationship has trickled into the children's view of us. Their mom tries everything to keeping me away from our children. I will never stop fighting to be in my children's life. Being a father is important to me and it's the best job I've ever had.
I heal from the pain of not seeing my kids by focusing on the bigger picture.
The bigger picture for me is NOT to react to negative energy but to find the positive in a tough situations. The positive will last forever. When I am calm, I can think clearly and put a plan in motion. I remind my children I love them and it WILL get better.
Peace to means the freedom of my mind and thoughts. If I are mentally free from stress and negative energy that to me, is PEACE. - Mike

I'm a lil project girl born and raise to afflicts in the city of Camden, NJ. I struggle with finding my image, my purpose and my peace. As a teenage mom I was left to figure out things on my own without the proper support and guidance. My name is Ta and I found my peace at 27 in giving back to my community, loving my children, bettering myself and PRAYER. Peace means loving myself first so I can love others. - TaTa, Camden 




My Story… Although, it is still being written, my story has taken a shift in recent chapters, through the power of letting go, self-reflection and healing. I been through a few deep betrayals that have stained my very being. It changed me, my trust for people, and my love, the value of one’s words and the perception of myself. It changed my interior and for years, I kept quiet. It took a lot of work. It started off with time. The power of Time should never be underestimated. I then had to allow myself toFeel. I had to sit with my emotions and feelings. Let my mind, body and soul Accept what had happened to me and experience all the emotions that followed. It’s a painful process…but worth it. That then lead me
to Forgiveness of self and the parties involved. That in turn led me to Self-Reflection. I wrote and I wrote a lot. I meditated, sat in silence, spent time with myself, exercised, screamed, laughed, cried, and did yoga. But before I got there: I rebelled, drank a lot, partied and buried my feelings. I had to dig them up and face them…difficult process. I Rediscovered who it was that I became, who I was before and whom I wanted to be. Finally, I spoke about it. I spoke about it to God, to myself, to an audience through poetry, to the walls in my room, to my mother. I released. To me peace comes in numerous forms. It can be temporary or lifelong. It’s the freedom of disturbance internally and externally. It’s a sense of tranquility. I find peace in self-love and understanding. I am at peace when I feel centered and grounded. When my spirit is calm and my mind is no longer in a state of chaos. It’s a period of time when there is no war or fighting with self, others and home. - Leonora

Abandonment, being silenced, resentment, lies, verbal abuse leading to physical abuse, being a constant vessel for others and not myself… My story is a huge heartbreak story, heartbreak from others and from myself. At the time I didn’t know but I was deeply depressed and had gotten myself mentally sick by choosing to continuously keep myself inserted in a situation because I thought that was a requirement of love.
My healing process is still in progress. I am still affected in many ways but what helped me through it was purpose. Getting back and being committed to who I was, what I stand for and what I was going for before the pain helped me get through. Only this time I was wiser. Growing up in MV, I’ve seen MANY people I grew up with die 
since the age of 13 and realized life is too fucking short for this shit! Get it together! I’ve had many mood swings and many anxiety attacks but I pulled through. I am pulling through.
Peace to me is no limitations. Dancing like a pro when no one is looking, singing at the top of my lungs to my favorite songs, being able to write down my thoughts and ideas, pen to paper, seamlessly, escaping the world reading a great book, making sure that I’m doing at least one thing a day to bring positivity to someone else’s day. When time passes and it doesn’t matter. When even if things get shitty I can handle it with positivity. Peace is not a verb, it’s a noun. The definition of that noun is Me. - Kelly, UPSquad Team

Last year I went through my mom almost dying and a bad break up.I didn't realize how much I had on my plate until I broke.I never been the type of person to express emotions especially crying.So with everything happening I always told myself to stay strong.I instilled in myself to never let other see me break down.Which is such a ego eating concept. I became closer with myself. I embraced the flaws that got me to the place I was at.I wrote down every emotion I ever felt.I cried I prayed and went to therapy.I realized that I was searching for a love in others that I needed to find in myself. I think peace means knowing you have demons just like everyone else.Knowing that growth is not limitless. - Niki

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Recently I've ended a 4yr domestic partnership. There wasn't a moment once a month for the last two years I didn't think "Oh no today is going to be the day we end." Even while knowing how toxic, limited and negating of my highest blessings this situation was, I was afraid to let go. To be alone, for real. My ego, or my weak minded voice suffers from abandonment issues. Since being a toddler anyone I've loved dear to my heart has passed away or walked away. Endings of humancontact really shake my core, and worry my heart. It's gotten better, with faith, practice and choosing better friends. All of my help comes from the source behind the breath. God, Spirit, Universal
Love. I healed through yoga, meditation and spiritual practices that ascend my heart and ground my mind. I healed by joining a new acting class, and pursuing my purpose in this life, I heal everyday by dissolving the blockades towards compassion so that forgive myself, but never revisit, and never regret. Peace for me is access to my full emotions. Wherein I am capable of not judging myself for spontaneous laughter or hysterical tears, on the train, in a yoga class, and most definitely on a film set.As a Healer, Actor & Teacher my empathy levels are expanding everyday, the vessel of my body is for the use of that expression this requires balance. Peace is balance of the viewer and what is viewed. The creation and what has created. A solace unbound by the limits of what's in front of me and responsive therein supportive to the flow inside of me. This flow is present in all things & sourced by love. This is what makes me feel strong. - Leo

In life you go through many journeys but I must say the one that I hold on to is when I lost my mother. You never know that feeling until it happens to you. Losing her was like losing myself, my backbone, my world. After her loss & I decided I need to focus on me first. I always thought of others b4 me & b4 my mom passed she asked me what happened. Now I love for myself & my children they are my world & I need to be a better me for them. I'm ready for my next journey. 
Healing is an on going process & talking about her helps me. I'm not completely healed, it take time. You just learn how to deal with it.Keeping her memory alive helps also. 

Peace means you are at one with yourself, nothing & no one can't take your peace or happiness. Peace is. Ring in love with yourself first then everything else falls into place. No stress, no pain, no anger, no hate......those things don't belong in peace. As long those things you still have in you, then you are not in peace. Getting peace is an on going process & being one with God helps. God is the key to happiness, as along as you believe in him & know he there to guide you, you will be at peace. - Khristian

I tried to hold it all together but that shit hard to manage. First generation college student, coming from an area where getting shooting someone or getting locked up makes you more real then getting an education or starting your own business. I still managed.When you have love, degrees and a career you love, it's like what are you missing. I realized I was missing peace. My life was full of chaos surrounding all my success. Everytime my phone rang, my heart dropped. Did someone get locked up, who got killed, is my family okay? It was becoming too much for me. Losing people back to back, watching people around me struggle, I was drained mentally 
and emotionally. People say but you're good. Nah, it didn't feel good to know I was good, while those around you are dealing with adverse situations that could affect their entire life.I would just randomly cry thinking about life at home. All my thoughts were negative, I was struggling but No would ever know what was constantly going on in my heart and my mind. After a while it was beating me up to much and I had to find peace somewhere. You can't pour from an empty cup right? I had to get my mind right in order to help those around me. I find peace in giving back, serving students from underprepared areas, yoga, dancing, music: from trap to the sound of the ocean, I listen to everything. I love traveling, climbing mountains and just being thankful Gods great creations. I also find peace in knowing that resiliency exists. I can face adversity and bounce back from tragedy and disappointment. Peace is facing and controlling my fears, while smiling. - Nadiyah, Atlantic City

I’ve always felt the pressure to have my shit together, even though I still today wonder if I do. Like growing up it was like I was never given the room to not be ok, or to not have the right answers, or to not be tired. As a child that’s rough, hell as an adult I struggle with that. I wanted the ability to just be a kid, not have to worry about too much, but that wasn’t my story. I was put in situations where I had to be the responsible one and even when I showed that things were too much for me I wasn’t allowed to be broken. I obtained jobs and worked tirelessly for small checks, had to move my life around several times and deal with men who couldn’t have 
cared less about my wellbeing, be called a sissy, a little faggot, and told that I was less of man, and then turn around and be asked to pay my way for a situation I didn’t ask to be in from the beginning. But as if that wasn’t enough, everything I had growing up wasn’t just mine, in fact somehow I owed somebody something. I have never been able to fully let down the emotional wall that built because of this. I have a great heart and a giving spirit but I tend to withdraw it and replace it with resentment anytime someone stirs up those feelings from my past. And even when it happens now the expectation is that I’m just supposed to be ok…… that’s still not the case. I should be allowed times to not be ok, I should be allowed to not feel taken advantage of, I should be allowed to protect my peace and not be looked at as “too emotional”, “bitter”, “cold” etc. Things definitely get easier as I get older but my guard is still up and I’m not sure when it will come down.

This is something that is a work in progress because I’m still affected by similar situations, and I still react very emotionally. My work in progress is communication and being able to articulate what the problem is and how/why it’s affecting me, I wasn’t able to do this when these things initially happened. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more vocal and understand that being made to feel like protecting my wellbeing is wrong, actually says more about the intention of others and not me.

Two things that have helped me channel my emotions is writing and creating art they both allow me to give, express, and be vulnerable, without asking for anything in return. Art allows me to focus in on something and completely disappear from the world. I am probably at my most peaceful self when I’m in a creative mode. Writing allows me get things off my chest that I may not know how to say to a person and also evaluate the validity of my emotions before I act on them. - Kamren

I made up a story on left side of my brain where logic lied. Yes, logic lied. Lied about the way you touched me, lied about the way you said it was just a game. 18 years of lies that the left side suppressed. Now there is no more room for being angry or sad, only room to heal. Only 1 room left in this house to break habits -– to break free. To not let it happen to another girl like me. I healed
by telling the truth; to myself. The moment we stop lying to ourselves the cycle stops. I found peace in the breaking; Odd huh? How the very peace we go searching for is in the healing we so rightfully deserve. That moment of realization that you don't have to keep telling yourself the same damn story, the same Lie. The moment that you begin to breathe– truth. The moment you begin to love all those pieces that once felt broken.That is peace. That peace wasn't in book, that peace wasn't in the church pews, that peace came from sitting in some very dark places and pulling the rot out with my very own hands – but i found it. - Toccara

Growing up in a single parent home without a father figure was the biggest affect on me, even till this day. Seeing my mother struggle by herself. Trying to find my own path, figuring out the route of manhood, the answer was is being independent. What made me realize I was on the right path was when my friends started disappearing. Of course it's part of growing up but my closest friends were placed in the prison system. We all carried similar characteristics, did the same crimes, and yet I was the only one who wasn't caught in the system. It lingers in my mind that can't help my friends out of the situation their in but showed me their must be change. You can't help a people in the same position with but you can motivate, inspire and help when you have a platform to offer.

How did I Heal (Gain Strength ): I was being able to know where I want to be in life and who I'm doing this for. My Family ! Put my family in a better situation And to inspire others to be themselves and live their dreams. I am the face of the Youth.
What is peace: Peace to me is my own comfort zone where my imagination and inner thoughts on who I am can flow and be free without judgement. - Lavelle

As a sophomore in college my mind hasn't been made up yet. My jeans are playing professional basketball has not faded and I doubt it will. I want to become A sports broadcaster for ESPN, but being blessed into a family to have achieved millions of dollars they want me to fulfill their destiny of our family business. They want me to focus on the radio programming, and uploading music to the website. As a determined college student I am ready for it all.
 My dreams will never change because I'm always determined and focused, but sometimes it's what has affected you to become even hungrier. Being overlooked in high school, being doubted on,
being talked about, and even not reaching your full potential inside the classroom. All of this made me become who I am today a college basketball student who GPA went from a .5 in high school to a 2.8, and earning a scholarship to Warner university ,and a person who motivates my family to become the best. This is a true definition of hard work, positions always change but the person doesn't.
What made me heal was isolation. Being by myself helps me think more, gives me motivation to become better than the next person , and gives me ideas to help myself out and others.
What peace means to me is a world Full of acceptance, a world full of courage , A place to be comfortable, a place to accept others flaws, A feeling that is warm, And a imagination that is real. That's what peace means to me. - Waah

I was a victim of domestic violence for 2 years. I say “was” because I have now found my peace and got through the storm. My self-esteem was brought down and I had forgotten who I was. I was blinded by love, thinking he was the only person that would love me. I have been beaten, burned, drugged by him. I had a great fear of him. I just thank god I found my voice to speak up about my situation. I healed by hearing the story of a Mother losing her daughter to domestic violence. The mother was a nurse I met while trying to lie to the doctor about my injuries while my abuser was standing by. She saw her daughter in me and remembered the fear that was on her face. She begged me to not let another young black woman lose to this epidemic. This conversation changed my life forever. I truly met an Angel. 
I healed by gaining the courage to go back to my safe place I called home with my family. Surrounded myself with friends and family that loved me. I healed my mental by reading and writing comic books. I found escape from real life by indulging into a fictional characters life. 

My peace is rubbing virgin coconut oil over my body and soul after I perform Beyoncé’s greatest hits in the shower. I have made Peace with not being able to hit all of the notes. - Ashley

I’ve always been an observer, partially because of my upbringing. As I matured I've probably seen or dealt with things that I probably shouldn't have. But eventually I started taking heed and learning from them. A lot of what I know is self taught. Learning at a young age that liking the same sex wasn't of God, so they say, was my struggle growing up. I’ve had to struggle of with hiding how I really felt and not do or say the things that I wanted. Scared to be nice or talk for that matter because of the thoughts someone may have. I had to learn that God makes no mistakes, that I'm exactly WHO I'm suppose to be.I healed by just simply being me . Now, I still have reserves but as I grow I'm learning to let them go . Peace to me is being unbothered free and completely Me. - Khrys