Finding a Voice and Drawing on Courage: April Parker’s Story
Anabel Genevitz, a student at Arcadia University, is interning this summer with Project HOME’s Advocacy and Public Policy Department.
April Parker greeted me warmly in the lobby of Connelly House at 1212 Ludlow Street. Although the weather was grim, she was pleasant, and exuded a sort of quiet sophistication that reminded me of an old Hollywood movie star. An artist at heart and resident of Project HOME for five years, April seems to embody a spirit of resiliency and hope even for those facing incredible challenges. Through her relentless and inspirational pursuit of a career as an artist, as well as support from Project HOME, April has blossomed as an artist of many trades and hopes to inspire others through her work.
Raised in Beaufort, South Carolina, April has considered herself an artist her entire life. After moving to Boston to stay with family, she set out on her own to pursue an artistic career in Philadelphia. She arrived in 2004, with a job prepared, as she went out on her own for the first time. She attended orientation and eagerly awaited starting her new position.
Unfortunately, April’s job fell through. She found herself living in a hotel in a city that remained foreign to her. After residing in the hotel for as long as she could, April found herself with nowhere else to go.
April refused to live on the street, and immediately found her way to the Eliza Shirley Shelter of the Salvation Army. After spending a few months there, she moved into the Cedar Park neighborhood, located in West Philadelphia, where she continued on her pursuit of stability through a transitional housing program.
By 2006, April knew she wanted a more stable form of housing. She moved into Project HOME’s Kairos House, where she soon became the receptionist. April believes her four years at Kairos House gave her the confidence and experience to pursue further independence in both employment and housing. She would eventually move to Project HOME's In Community program, which featured supported independent living. She was one of the first residents at the new Connelly House, which opened its doors earlier this year. April believes the ability to have her own apartment and space has both enabled her to become a better artist and establish her independence.
“Challenges don’t break me,” she says. “I look at them as a chance to grow as a person.”
She began working at the Merriam Theater as a phone operator, combining her love for the arts with the experience she gained through Project HOME’s employment services. Although she was satisfied with her position at the Merriam, she wanted to further expand her employment history, and became a member of the Supportive Services Staff for the Philadelphia School District. However, due to recent budget cuts, April was laid off from her position. She remains on a waiting list for re-employment as soon as another position opens. Rather than giving up,
April looked at this setback as an opportunity to continue pursuing her artistic career. April’s artistic abilities transcend a variety of forms of expression. She considers herself an actor, singer, dancer, writer, and visual artist, experimenting with both drawing and acrylic paints. She has attended five auditions this year to begin expanding her career as an actor. Although none have yet to result in a role, she considers each a positive experience and opportunity to get her name and face a familiar one in the business.
One of April’s most amazing achievements is her recently released single, “Maybe.” She recorded with a producer in Argentina, and was then distributed by Island Def Jam Digital Distribution. Her first song is now available for purchase on both iTunes and Amazon.com. Although she does not plan to produce a full album, she has a number of other singles she hopes to record and produce. April also remains very proud of her three poems published in Project HOME’s newsletter, Dwelling Place. She also has become a member of ASCAP, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. April strongly believes that Project HOME’s supportive environment has allowed her to become a better artist.
“Project HOME gave me the opportunities, motivation, and encouragement to be successful,” she says. She recalls taking art classes at 1523 Fairmount Avenue, which sparked her interest in acrylic paints and drawing. Many of her works have been exhibited at various arts shows at Project HOME. Her other artistic influences include Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Langston Hughes. More than anything else, April emphasized that Project HOME’s services have truly allowed her to change and grow as a person. She believes that everything happens for a reason, and that all of her challenges have allowed her to become a better artist. She has a deep drive to inspire others to pursue their dreams and push on through even the toughest challenges through her own art, and emphasized that in our time together.
April’s future plans include remaining in Philadelphia to continually expand her career as an artist, as she now considers this city her home. April’s story seems to embody a sense of positivity, inspiration, and a need to give back to others.
Similar to the mission of Project HOME, April feels compelled to share her talents with the world to inspire others to overcome the challenges they may face. “I hope from sharing my story that I have inspired someone to follow their dreams and not to give up when challenges come up.”