Grad Profile: Sam Casseus '08

Sam Casseus is a current City School board member and SLP grad from '08. She is also author of the poetry book Intrepid, available now on Amazon Kindle or in paperback.
 
What is your favorite memory of The City School?
One of my favorite memories at The City School was when I participated in an activity called the Healing Circle. That was the first time ever that I heard the experiences of others around me. It was a great moment to be absolutely transparent and to cry and heal with one another. This experience resonated with me deeply because it showed each other who we really are and unveiled the masks that we might have been wearing prior. I knew it was creating a healing and loving atmosphere to move forward and see things for what they really are. The truth is, we all have our trials and tribulations to go through and that sometimes our experiences are very similar to each other. It is just a matter of engaging in that dialogue to reveal how much healing is in store for us as a community. This means unity to me.
 
How have you changed because of your first summer of SLP?
The first year of The City School completely changed my life in more ways than one. I was able to understand the social justice issues that were not discussed in school. It was the most educational experience that I've ever received anywhere. All the information was vital towards my evolution as a Black woman and as an active member of my society. I met many lifetime friends at The City School and learned many important lessons about creating safe spaces.I have become a community organizer and creator of safe spaces thanks to the example that The City School gave me. I am always referring back to the communication styles that were encouraged as well as how we positioned in small groups to engage in important dialogue. I have realized that I am needed, that I matter, and that I have value. Everything I do matters and  that must translate in the work that I do to serve others in the most effective way that I've learned how thanks to the leaders before me.
 
How have you continued your commitment to social justice beyond the Summer Leadership Program?
I have continued my commitment through the community organizing work that I've done in terms of keeping artists accountable and as well as serving the community when it comes to wellness and healing. I know that everything I do is bigger than myself and I hope that this will resonate and create a domino effect for the younger generation. I am a spoken word poet and curator of poetry workshops and classes. I use my abilities to provide healing spaces that address self-doubt and trauma. I do this by facilitating workshops that help others express themselves through creative processes such as art therapy, poetry, and creative discussion. It is my purpose and goal in life to impact the world by being an available resource for others to reach their highest potential and to feel good about their role in their community.
 
What's your vision for how we can achieve justice?
We can achieve justice by making justice our business and not diffusing the responsibility of taking action. A lot of times, people are waiting for the next MLK or the next Malcolm X to lead the way, but the reality is that we are extremely powerful people. We are the next leaders of tomorrow and it is important to pick up that responsibility and drop off that fear to change the world and conditions in which we are living in.
 
What's your real life superpower?
My real life superpower is my speech. In plain text, it is the words that come out of my mouth. Words have intense power and I know that I can change hearts and minds with this power without a doubt. I never take it for granted and I am very thankful for this superpower.
 
If you could have coffee with one social justice activist, who would it be and why?
The first workshop that I held with community organizer, Ashlie Pruitt, was inspired by the life of Nina Simone. We used her work and story to empower ourselves and to facilitate a workshop that placed a heavy emphasis on the responsibility of the artist. Nina Simone said it best, "The artist's duty is to reflect the times." There is an urgency and responsibility to reflect the times that we live in and to continuously tell our stories and capture our narratives in our work. The work that we do does not only serve ourselves, but also serves the people that rely on us. Nina Simone, in my opinion, was a social justice activist and the life that she led has inspired me to do the majority of the work that I do.