Yaya Por Vida: Giving Life to Loss Through Art

Loss often leads people to change. The loss of a loved one led Yamila Rollan Escalona to change her life. She created a non-profit organization Yaya Por Vida to honor her sister Yaritza Rollan. Yaya, who was a multi-talented artist, died of an accidental overdose. The foundation presents art exhibitions featuring artists, who are familiar with the plight of substance abuse. 

Our loved ones never leave us. They go to a better place, somewhere among the stars. Sometimes they come back. “I Have Lived Once Before” is the name of the current exhibition. It’s centered around the theme of Reincarnation with a focus on street art, one of Yaya’s favorites. 

Yamila described the event with details as follows in her press release: 

Over 20 local South Florida artists in recovery, allies of the movement, families suffering the plight of substance use disorder, and families of loss will display, and their work will be auctioned for our cause. We began our first Art as Healing program series in January 2021 and continue to run under the directive of local artist Michelle Swift. 

“we’re all tiny, walking galaxies—and that the magic is within us.”

Adriana Jay
For the Dreamers Ariana Jay

In October of 2021, we recently added Art as Healing to our monthly houseless care kit drive. Every piece of art created by community members during that time period through May 2022 will be displayed. We continue to secure donations and count on the public’s support to fuel funds for our Art as Healing Rehab and Street Edition programming. ‘I Have Lived Once Before” is centered around Reincarnation with street art as a focus style all reflected in Yaya’s legacy in the arts. Pieces created by Yaya in her lifetime will also be displayed in celebration of her life.

Artists will submit their best work to auction or sell through an on-site live auction. Some include the featured Ariana Jay (Adriana Jaramillo, Terry the Creator, Cate Karate, Jhon Pierre and Cheri Vice. We will also host live Narcan training/distribution as part of our community harm reduction program, exciting raffles, and art vendors. Live art by Atomik, Live Music by DJ Simdica, and Eric Guitian from Mind & Melody. Proceeds will benefit Yaya Por Vida’s work in the community for those seeking overdose prevention tools, substance use recovery, in-treatment, in-active recovery, families dealing with a struggling loved one, those that have suffered the loss of a loved one due to substance use or those actively using drugs to find healthy, positive outlets of expressions in the arts with cultural competency in mind. 

The event is sponsored and hosted by Archive79, and takes place on May 14th, 2022, from 6 pm to 9 pm at the Archive79 Gallery, 170 NE 79 Street, Miami, FL 33138.

Accomplishments and Recognitions:
Yaya Por Vida has distributed 1,561 Narcan kits and saved 96 lives since March 2022.

They gained Impact Deposits, Hanes, Fire Hospitality (Lincoln Beard, Strange Beast, and Maxwell Bros.), and FIUMAPS as sponsors for grants and donations and began Food Rescue Programs with CAO Bakery West Kendall and Latin American Restaurant Miami Lakes in 2021.

Yaya Por Vida has continued with Be the Change in 2022 and held its first International Overdose Awareness Day event and three National Recovery Month events with the collaboration of Fire Hospitality. In addition, they stocked each location under Fire Hospitality with Narcan behind the bar.

During the first year of running their Art as Healing program participants reported 85.7% improvement in emotional and mental state. 100% reported improved verbal communication regarding their struggles when using art as a physical tool of expression.

Their founder was a part of and graduated from Radical Partners BIPOC Neighborhood Heroes Lab Shoutout Miami and Ladies in Miami created journalism pieces regarding Yaya Por Vida and its impact in the community.

Radical Partners in Collaboration with Miami Foundation rewarded Yaya Por Vida with a stipend to build fully accessibility services for diversely abled members of the community.
Yaya Por Vida expanded services across two more counties besides Dade – Martin and St. Lucie.

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