At the first ever Talent Show for St. Ann’s, Pregones Theater on Walton Avenue was filled with program leaders, as well as former and current patients of the organization. These members wrote and designed the entire show on their own to show their shared belief that being an addict does not solely encapsulate who a person is.
The theater performance was part of a July 20 fundraiser for Saint Ann’s Corner, which aimed to promote awareness about addiction and challenge the notion that addiction has only one face, and that addicts are all just people who do not care about their lives.
“Most of the participants they surprised me. This event was about them leading with their strengths, it takes a strong person to survive in the streets,” said Monique Bourgeois, the office manager at Saint Ann’s Corner. “They’ve proven time and time again that they have that strength.”
One of the major themes of the night was the change that the organization has made for the community. As the performers repeated through their poetry readings, “We’ve all been through something, but look at us now!”
St. Ann’s Corner has been serving the South Bronx location since 1990 by meeting opioid addicts as they are and providing them free treatment and services. The organization’s services include needle exchanges programs, syringe access programs, mental health counseling, women’s services, meal programs, outreach programs, HEP-C programs, The Supportive Counseling and Family Stabilization Program (HIV), and the Young Injection Drug Users Program.
Many of the members spoke about how they personally recall founder and executive director Joyce Rivera handing out clean needles and fresh condoms to users when she was just starting the organization.
“She [Joyce Rivera] had no shop or anything like that, this was just on St. Ann’s Avenue,” said Laurette Ramsey, a former addict. “It did not matter whether I used or not, they welcomed me in.”
As an organization, St. Ann’s Corner staff say they have made it their mission to always try to treat the people who come to receive their services with dignity and respect, and meet them as they are with compassion and respect, “on their turf and on their terms.”
While most of the speakers and guests had many kind words to say about Rivera and how she helped them, Rivera said it was really always about them to begin with.
“It’s never really been about me, I feel like I’m the channel,” said Rivera. “To channel your talents and your passions in a certain way that aligns us with humanity and compassion and dignity. As you can see today there are no barriers between us, and that has been my aim all along.”