Hi everyone! My name is Leanna Browne, and I am a Servant Year member this year working as the Youth Ministry Assistant for the Office of Family and Young Adult Ministries in the Diocese. I’ve never really worked for the church before though I was pretty involved in my church growing up (e.g. youth choir, praise dance ministry, and youth church). I’m excited this year to see and be a part of how the Church actually lives out its purpose, and particularly for my context, how the Church helps youth “encounter God and connect with the Gospel.”
One thing most people know about me is my passion for dance. I enjoy many different styles such as jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, modern, African-based movement, and Umfundalai (a contemporary Pan-African dance technique). I am really interested in using dance for social change because I believe that dance is life and can be a source of empowerment. Dance can also be a powerful medium to shed light on significant social issues. For example last year, for my special major in Dance and Black Studies, I embarked on a senior project with three fellow performers (who are also black women). The project addressed the systemic violence and killing of black bodies in the United States, how black communities can use self-care in community with one another in the face of oppression, and how black life can be celebrated through dance. I hope to continue using dance for social change this year and navigating this in my new contexts.
The final video project of Xavier Lee '17 and Indigo Sage '16 for their linguistics class, "Language and Identity in the African Diaspora, which highlighted my senior project
I’m excited to be in Philadelphia this year because I was hoping to stay in the area after graduation (I graduated from Swarthmore College last spring, which is a private, liberal arts college in the southwest suburbs of Philly). Though my hopes were to find an arts-related job related to dance, working with youth, etc., things didn’t pan out with these other options. But Servant Year seemed to be the opportunity I left on the back burner, just in case. Whenever I seemed to be close to deciding to do it, I resisted. But, when it came time in early August to ultimately decide to do Servant Year (or go home to Minnesota to stay and continue applying for jobs), I knew if I wanted to stay in Philadelphia, this was it. In the midst of Servant Year’s opening retreat, I realized that this program wasn’t necessarily a “just in case” type of opportunity. I realized this year could be really formative for me in interrogating how my faith truly connects to (and fuels) my passion for using the arts, particularly dance, for social change. Not to say that this year hasn’t been met with challenges. I regularly question the point of the work I do when it can feel at times so distant from the pressing issues of our time. Likewise, I question Servant Year itself and wonder how and if we can truly be in community with the communities we’ve been placed in, beyond the churches whose houses we are fortunate to be living in. I wonder if we are willing to humble ourselves and really listen and engage with those around us. I think having these tough conversations are integral in making sure Servant Year is effective. Nevertheless, I look forward to finding ways to integrate my passions into the work I am doing with the Youth Ministry this year!