“What if that random facebook post someone sent to me on October 2020 was the moment designed to change my life? What if that was the moment God invited me to be a mover and shaker as a Black Christian leader. That is the way of God- He takes small movements to big things. I am honored to be among you all.” Shelene Huey-Booker is the Executive Director and Visionary of YUPP. She is a member of the first cohort group of The Witness Fellows that gathered in Little Rock for their first in person collaboration. Shelene’s passion for music and the fine arts as a means of community and growth for young people is inspiring. YUPP is Youth Utilizing Power and Praise. Yupp’s mission is to develop cross-cultural networks, that enhances the whole being through performing arts, fine arts public speaking, and sports nd their vision is to build youth empowerment and self-esteem by providing access to supportive activities and services through performing arts, fine arts, sports, mentorship and entrepreneurship.
“I’ve been placed here to learn and heal, I feel like a sponge,” Shelene is a true observer and takes in everything around her and the wisdom she shares when she speaks is a gift to those with her. As a musician and artist she relates to the song lyrics, “I’m alive because there is more.” Even the story of her birth was a miracle; in San Jose, California her mother had many medical complications and the doctors told Shelene’s father that both the baby and her mother would not survive, he answered, “I am crazy enough to believe God can save them both.” Shelene was born healthy and her mom survived. She vulnerably shared with the group of Fellows that she is celebrating only 4 years of life as September 18, 2018 was her final suicide attempt. Sharing her pain is also from a place of true freedom in Jesus now, “I became an expert at code switching, leading, hiding.” Even through her struggles she directed a choir that grew from 15 to 100 and saw the hand of Christ in the choice, “people were healed and filled with the spirit.” “I was covering up my pain with a “perfect life,” 3.8 GPA, I was a PK (a pastor’s kid) and I found myself exhausted in a bathroom dealing with serious anxiety.” As she shares the freedom she lives in now is apparent through her story, “this is not a backdrop of sorrow- this is just my story and at 15 I wrote a vision of an activity center for youth in the community. I dealt with so much bullying and I saw a place that would be safe with opportunities for art and sports- but more than that but really doing life with them.”She is living into that vision now and leading others as well through YUPP.
Shelene shared about the impact of a space for Black leaders and how The Witness Fellows opportunity has allowed her to grow, “so much has happened over time and I am now not just being used as the token Black woman in the room. I have learned so much through my struggles and realized so many Black Christian women are suffering and feel alone. It is safe to say I am coming into myself.”
She vulnerably shared, “I have learned there is power in my tears, there is a place of healing for me and others” and she shares from Psalm 56:8 “you keep track of my sorrows, collect them in a bottle and I see that tears create intimacy between you and the Father.”
Stanley Frankart spoke over Shelene, “you are a strong, mighty, boundless, resilient woman of God with so much which is why the enemy attacks.”
Shelene is living into the vision she knows God has set before her, “My purpose is to share the love of Christ and confidence does not come easy for me and I live for the moments of seeing a little girl who is being bullied to have life breathed into her.” Shelene talks of the importance of personal and professional flourishing, “the kingdom demands fruitfulness and sometimes the 4 walls of the church actually can hinder our mission. Jesus did not spend a lot of time there and we must do work as He did.” SHe is committed to testifying to the presence of God in all spaces not just inside the church and YUPP’s vision of creating community is birthed from her story and God’s redeeming plan.
The visit to Little Rock Central High School spoke to Shelene as she also has personal connections to one of the students. As the Fellows were processing the visit Stanly shared, “When we collectively assemble there is an anointing. It is our responsibility to say how we respond collectively. We have to feel the feels of this moment. We can redeem the narrative by trying to feel this- she was being spit on by grown white women and other children.”
Shelene responded, “It was heavy and hard but in a good way. I was struck that still there are people dealing with trauma and isolation in a generational line from these historical and very personal events.” Her gift of presence and worship allow her to minister in spaces that are difficult and others would feel intimidated by but her light shines so bright. On the last day she even sang over everyone as they left to go out and continue the work they are called to and it was a holy moment of community.
Her prayer was, “not that we will be glorified but the lamb that was slain would receive the reward of His suffering.”
Learn more about how to support the work of YUPP here and follow along here. Blessings Shelene! You are a powerful, resilient, and tender woman of God and the work you are doing is so needed in the world. Well done.
A visual storyteller that focuses on human emotion & connection. I help families, individuals, & couples to share their beautiful messy story.
I also partner with humanitarian, non-for-profit organizations, and NGOs share their stories with intention, dignity, & excellence, so they can have a greater impact on their communities.