EAST VILLAGE — Sweet Generation, a First Avenue bakery with a social justice streak, is using its internship program to give city youth a voice and a safe haven after an election that has left them fearful, the shop's owner and founder said.
The bakery's RISE youth internship, which recruits youth aged 16 to 24 from city schools and nonprofit groups to work in the shop while participating in career training and workshops, most recently teamed up with Lower East Side arts organization Fourth Arts Block to create a mural on the storefront's metal pull-down gates.
The mural reflects the students' hopes and dreams for the future — including landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower from a student striving for a career in architecture and a cupcake from an aspiring pastry chef — but also reflects the students' desire for peace and unity, which has come to the forefront of discussion since the presidential election, said bakery founder and owner Amy Chasan, pointing to the peace sign emerging from the mural's painted clouds.
"That's where the peace sign came from, just that desire for harmony," explained Chasan, who said her students, all minorities, had expressed fears for the future in the wake of President-elect Donald Trump's victory and the reported uptick in hate crimes.
"In this mural project is when the youth started opening up about how it impacted them and how they thought about this city, which they love a lot," said Chasan. "I think what a lot of them felt, and it's what we hear from this generation, is it's really frustrating that bigotry like this exists and there’s no reason for it — why can't people just be themselves and everybody be OK with that?"
"It’s scary to think about being in a place where they aren’t safe, where they feel hate and exclusion."
Chasan has taken to the business's social media to reinforce her commitment to serving her students and making her bakery a safe place for them.