Philly gumball machines offer mental health care


The gumball machine is the namesake of LindoYes’ solo piece, The Gumball Machine, a multimedia performance that premiered at the Painted Bride on November 4. He says poetry is able to put language to feelings that might otherwise be ignored or ridiculed by what he calls toxic masculinity.

“When I don’t have access to the language and I go through something, it prevents me from being able to locate what is causing it,” he said. “One of the things I discover with my emotions is the spectrum of sadness. Sometimes I can be resigned. It’s not just sadness and depression. There is resignation, withdrawal. Then I can start building a community with others where I don’t feel isolated with my emotions.

For the chewing gum machine at the Liberation Center in Kensington, the Philadelphia headquarters of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, LindoYes included a poem suited to the party’s mission.

As five fingers come

together to make a fist

you have to imitate that

solidarity to have

greater impact.

The tag button included in the chewing gum capsule features a design of a raised fist.

Program director Talia Giles says the poem and gumball machine are a good fit for the PSL space.

“It connects with working class people because, number one, it’s really colorful and fun. It’s something a lot of us, especially millennials and older generations, grew up with,” Giles said. “A lot of people make assumptions about ‘oh, we have to be serious all the time’, but we can also have fun. It’s important for us to have fun because we’re building solidarity with each other, because we’re building a community with each other. It doesn’t always have to be super serious.

Talia Giles, Program Director at the Liberation Center in Kensington, pulls out a plastic capsule from the Centre’s library chewing gum dispenser. (Peter Crimmins/WHYY)WHYY’s ‘Stop and Frisk’ podcast explores solutions to gun violence

The Liberation Center recently moved to 147 W. Susquehanna from its former location a few blocks from Front and Dauphin. Earlier this year, LindoYes performed spoken word poetry for the opening of the party’s new headquarters.

The larger space allows the party to have a bookcase full of books, comfy seats, and buckets full of craft supplies. The poetic chewing-gum dispenser is within easy reach of an armchair.

“We recognize that a lot of working class people have families,” Giles said. “It’s important that we have a space that includes that, a space not just for adults but also for our young people.”

Having fun and caring are an integral part of LindoYes gumball dispensers.

“How to make a soft world in which one can walk barefoot, by doing this internal work of recognizing softness? he said. “Recognize how our emotions can be both our sword and our shield, something we can use to defend ourselves against evil and allow us to be offended against things that hurt us.”

Each chewing gum machine can hold up to 200 pods inside. LindYes says he has had to restock the South Philly machine since it launched in July, estimating around 500 pods have been dispensed along with a poem and the behavioral health hotline.

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