YEPP strives to create a brave environment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) youth experiencing homelessness to explore their history, investigate new ways to address their struggles and to celebrate their strengths through personal, leadership and community development programming that incorporate different art-expression forms.
While supporting LGBTQI+ young people at the Broadway Youth Center in Chicago, an organization working with youth experiencing homelessness, Bonsai Bermúdez facilitated a healing initiative in 2010 which drew upon the experiences and stories of street-based youth using various creative disciplines. It was called Proposal for Life.
The young participants found these workshops so powerful and instrumental for their self care and survival that it grew into a more comprehensive effort called Survival Youth Theatre. This new incarnation evolved into a youth-led initiative affording some of the youth opportunities to become leaders of the program and their communities. Although this weekly initiative didn’t develop a final performance, the idea stayed alive.
Later that year, after revising the mission, a new team met to develop a plan of rebuilding and re-opening the project. With this new charter in place, the Youth Empowerment Performance Project (YEPP) secured rehearsal space and began operating on March 1st, 2011. Since then, YEPP has produced multiple original works and has performed and led many conversations for schools and communities across the country including Cyndi Lauper and her True Colors Fund in New York City, The National Archives of Washington, D.C., and Creating Change Conference in Chicago.