I started a longboard group for girls in Lavender Hill in March last year. We meet every Sunday, and on the one day, we were boarding when we heard gunshots going off. We had to run into someone’s house and hide for quite a while. It was so, so scary. But what was really sad for me was when one of the girls said to me that, for her, this was normal.
It was scary but it made me more determined. There is a lot of gang violence in Lavender Hill but the girls there are also judged a lot. They get told they’re not pretty enough or too poor to amount to anything.
When we meet, we would start with meditation, then play games like tag team. The idea behind that is to build relationships and a sense of trust between the girls. Then the older girls get to board around Lavender Hill, after which we meet up and meditate again, before checking in with everyone to see how they’re doing. The idea behind that is to allow them to get in touch with their emotions and then speak about it. The most common emotions are always fear and hurt. Never really happiness.
And I know that feeling. My partner and I were kicked out by our families because we are gay. I was 15 at the time and went through a deep depression. But now I’m hustling. You know, I do all of this with the girls out of my own pocket. But I’m okay with that. I’m not going to pity myself and stop what I am doing, because that’s bullshit. I’m going to keep doing what I do and keep trying to make a difference. — Michaylah Petersen, 22, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian