“Unsteady” is a conceptual dance project created to address social issues present among young teens including bullying, body image, and cultural differences. Recipients of Mass Cultural Council’s 2018 Amplify grant, the piece was choreographed entirely by BalletRox dancers and performed at the Wake Up the Earth Festival this year in Jamaica Plain.
Each year, Artistic Noise creates group projects using the theme “Ubuntu”. A term from Southern Africa referring to humanity, Ubuntu means “I am because you are.” In other words, ‘my humanity is inextricably bound to yours.’ It is the belief in a universal bond that connects all humanity.
This year, two projects were created using this theme, “Our Common Thread” and “The Cards You’re Dealt.”
Our Common Thread
Youth Artists: Aaliyah, Angelina, Dani, Genea, Genezza, Kyla, Karmen, Jada, Jeante, Jenna, Shana, Taylah, Takari, Thiarra, Trinidy, Quasaia, Xianixia, Zainab, Zyikeya.
“[Ubuntu] is about how one person cannot live independently of their community. Ubuntu has us think about the impact we have on our communities and how they also influence who we are. We realized that there is a common thread weaving us all together so we made this piece by crocheting yarn. The interlocking loops of yarn represent all of us and our connections to one another.
The center piece is a rainbow that represents the idea of Ubuntu. All its colors represent all the people and their differences and how beautiful diversity is. The triangles that surround the Ubuntu rainbow symbolize the words that represent what we want for ourselves and our neighbors. We chose the colors that we felt best matched those words and crochet the triangles. The colors of the triangles are part of the rainbow the way we feel that these words represent elements that are very important to Ubuntu”
Ubuntu: represented by the rainbow center
Believe: the blue triangle; Change: the multicolored blue and purple triangle; Peace: the purple triangle; Resilience: the multicolored red triangle; Growth: the green triangle; Community: the multicolored blue and green triangle
The Cards You’re Dealt
Interns: Sam Zicolella, Clara Clough
Art Therapist: Hannah Fulkerson
Youth Artists: Dani, David, Khaliel, Shana, Takari, Travin, Quasaia, Zyikeya
“The Cards You’re Dealt” is an eight by five foot painting, separated across four panels. The quadtych represents the uncontrollable aspects of our human existence and how we choose to live given those circumstances. The first three panels portray how we do not have the choice to pick our race or ethnic background, the socioeconomic status we are born into and how that affects our climb to the top, or many of the fortunate and unfortunate events that happen to us throughout our life. The last panel asks us to consider how we grow and develop as people in response to our circumstances and to also consider the circumstances of others.
The last panel is for reflection. You will find a rap composed by Takari (Artistic Noise youth artist) which speaks to some of the harshness in the world and encourages us to appreciate what we have and keep pushing til the end.
This is an interactive art piece that requests everyone’s participation. The artists encouraged you to take a gamble at each panel, think about the cards you’ve been dealt, and then share your thoughts with us on the last reflection panel by writing your response directly below Takari’s lyrics:
Gotta play the cards you’re dealt
Ain’t no choice in the pull
Young kid ain’t have no money he was chasing them bulls
Another kid up in the burbs he was swimming in pools
Kid back up in the city he was following fools
He was ducking from the people and rejecting them schools
Rich boy was talking back and he was thinking he’s cool
Met each other on the train and they was chattin’ it up
Tommy claiming that he bad but he ain’t backing it up
Davi, see the kid got future but he cracking it up
He’ll give anything and everything to turn back in time
Every time he leave without it put his life on the line
Tommy said you made ya choice now just let me make mine
Now the life that he was living wasn’t choice but by ways
He was tryna find the light in this world full of pain
Money can’t feed your emotion that’s the way he was feeling
Money buying fame that’s the reason he win
Don’t nobody really judge him in this world full of sin
This piece represents the understanding of Ubuntu as we should show love, care and understanding for one another because we do not get to choose the life we have, but are still responsible for the person we become.”
Last month, for the first time in over a decade, pop legend Janet Jackson launched an open call for dancers to audition for upcoming projects. Using various social media platforms (including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Musical.ly), dancers were encouraged to upload a 30-second video either performing famed Jackson choreography or freestyling to favorite songs by Jackson using hashtag #DanceWithJanet.
One of these submissions will include Boston’s very own OrigiNation. Here they are freestyling to Janet’s “Rhythm Nation”.
Origination, an Afrocentric performing arts organization, produces innovative and dynamic programs which motivate, challenge, and inspire youth of all levels of training to be the best they can be. Offering quality dance, theater arts, public speaking, and African history education programming, special emphasis is placed on teaching young people ages 2 to 18 the importance of self-respect, health, nutrition, civic engagement, education, self-esteem, as well as the extent of African influences on various contemporary art forms.
Meet Andrine Pierresaint, a longtime Books of Hope youth leader and a 15-year-old force to be reckoned with.
In her mid-teens, Andrine is not only an award-winning poet and performer, but also a published author who facilitates a weekly series of creative writing workshops for a group of pre-teens at the Mystic Learning Center in Somerville, MA.
For Andrine, poetry has been an outlet for processing challenging emotions in a constructive way as well as a bridge to new worlds, connecting her to a community of mentors and young people from all walks of life.
“I have other people that I know that, like, if I want to talk about something I can talk to them about it, but the first person I’m going to think about to talk about poetry and what happened in an event and how I’m feeling about a poem, is Erich. He brought me to Louder Than A Bomb, and it was like a whole new world,” Andrine reflects.
Erich Haygun is the Program Director at Books of Hope (BOH), created in 1990 by Anika Nailah as a creative outlet for young people in and around the Mystic Learning Center. Specializing in poetry, BOH provides opportunities for young people to develop and refine their creative writing skills through peer mentorship.
Locally, BOH features their youth leaders at Boston Public Library’s Teen Central in Back Bay from 3-5pm the last Friday of every month. Additionally, BOH hosts “BEEN OUT HERE,” an all-ages open-mic and workshop every second Wednesday from 6-9pm at The Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville, in collaboration with The Center for Teen Empowerment. BOH also prepares a team of young people to compete in the annual statewide Louder Than A Bomb Youth Poetry Slam. In her time at Books of Hope, Andrine has participated in the competition multiple times.
“Isn’t poetry the fuel that pulls you out of bed? Something you do by yourself, for yourself, for your team, for your family, with your dreams, despite money, despite anxiety? Isn’t poetry something you do with your heaviest heart, with your last breath, with your whole life?”
Profoundly supportive of young people, BOH also offers paid fellowships to participants who demonstrate a commitment to their craft and are dedicated to sharpening their skills. Through these fellowships, young people have access to writing workshops, publication and performance opportunities, professional development as well as peer-mentoring training. Young people learn skills to explore their creative paths while also gaining technical assistance and financial rewards for their hard work.
Andrine’s first book entitled Even Pears Speak to Me features a collection of poems that address race issues, fat-phobia, mental abuse, neglect and its lasting effects. Her poetry also explores familial relationships and the power of learning to love yourself.
More on Andrine’s journey:
Video by Alexandra Wimley and Breana Stephen.
Photos by Alexandra Wimley.
Throughout Fall 2017, Urbano Project youth artists collaborated with interdisciplinary artist-in-residence, Salvador Jimenez-Flores on “Tortilla Socials” – public, interactive printmaking workshops in Jamaica Plain. Using a multi-functional tortilla press designed by Jimenez-Flores himself, participants of all ages had the opportunity to create their own art prints while eating freshly made tortillas.
Jimenez-Flores envisioned the people of Jamaica Plain gathering to create art, enjoy Mexican food, and engage in a bilingual dialogue in public community spaces. “Group print-making is a tool for self-expression,” said Jimenez-Flores. “Advocacy and education and food has long been a uniter of communities of all ages.”
In January, 14 Urbano fellows and youth artists joined Salvador and printmaker Amelia Spinney for the first time in a week-long printmaking intensive where they designed and produced a collaborative print for public display at the end of the week. Limited edition prints for public display and interventions related to Urbano’s 2018 theme of “Resilience and Sustainability” will be available. The exhibition will be open through March 3, 2018 in Urbano’s studio at 29 Germania St, Building F, Boston.
(Images: Faizal Westcott, courtesy of Urbano Project.)
“Green Card Baby”, a collaborative youth art piece seen on a Mass Cultural Council site visit to Elevated Thought, an art and social justice organization that actively serves and develops communities through youth empowerment curriculum, beautification projects, youth organizing, and public outreach.
Happy New Year! Social justice is at the heart of Creative Youth Development work. Join us in celebrating Dr. King and his legacy with YouthReach and Ser Hacer programs’ young artists across the state:
COMMUNITY MUSIC SCHOOL OF SPRINGFIELD
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration
11am-1pm – MassMutual Center
Presented by Community Music School of Springfield, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, DREAM Studios, and Springfield College.
Performances CMSS youth musicians from our ensembles, chorus and Springfield school partnerships.
BOSTON CHILDREN’S CHORUS
Take My Hand: 15th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert
7pm – Symphony Hall
Just before sunset on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke with musician Ben Branch in the courtyard of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Branch asked Dr. King what to play at a meeting planned later that evening. Dr. King replied, “You should play Take My Hand, Precious Lord. Play it like you never played it before in your life. Play it real pretty.” The lyrics “lead me on to the light… lead me home” proved prophetic, as Dr. King was assassinated that night. Five days later, Mahalia Jackson performed this same hymn, one of Dr. King’s favorites, at his funeral in Atlanta.
This 15th annual MLK concert reflects the message that a seemingly small gesture – the taking of one’s hand, for example – can lead to enormous change. Small gestures bring us together, unite us, and help us build movements, just as Dr. King’s gestures of love, compassion, tolerance, and hope led to a civil rights movement that transformed the world.
BOSTON YOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
MLK Tribute Concert
NEW TIME/PLACE: 10:30am – Metcalf Hall, Boston University
BYSO performs classical music, spirituals, and freedom songs, with a sing-along and a keynote speaker.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Open House
10am-5pm – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Project STEP students will perform at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Open House at the Museum of Fine Arts. Mayor Martin J. Walsh is expected to attend and introduce Project STEP. More detailed information regarding Project STEP’s performance time will be posted on the MFA’s web site.
Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration
5pm – Hibernian Hall
Students playing classical music plus a panel discussion featuring musicians of color in Boston.
Award-winning author and Professor Dr. Bettina L. Love has developed and launched a new online educational resource called GET FREE. A multimedia Hip Hop civics curriculum for youth and young adults, GET FREE introduces students to a national network of young community leaders, artists, and activists who advocate for social change and democratic inclusion driven by grassroots organizing. In her own words, “GET FREE is inspired by the exuberance, ingenuity, political energy, resistance, love, and DIY model of underground Hip Hop [and aims to] push and extend ideas of democracy, citizenship, freedom, community, civic engagement, and intersectional justice.”
Dr. Love presented GET FREE to Boston Public Schools educators and teaching artists this fall as a resource to foster cultural competency and to develop a more diverse, inclusive, and relevant curriculum to engage students of color.
GET FREE covers resources that span music, poetry (including curated poetry by queer youth of color), literature, and art disciplines and includes interviews with local activists in select cities along with reflection questions. Articles and syllabus readers are also featured as are resources for mental health and self-care in the face of tragedy.
As an Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia, Dr. Love’s research focuses on the ways in which urban youth negotiate Hip Hop music and culture to form social, cultural, and political identities to create new and sustaining ways of thinking about urban education and intersectional social justice. Her research also focuses on how teachers and schools working with parents and communities can build communal, civically engaged, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, and anti-sexist educational, equitable classrooms.
Mass Cultural Council extends hearty congratulations to New Bedford Whaling Museum for receiving the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program (NAHYP) Award for their High School Apprenticeship Program. The High School Apprenticeship Program immerses students in skill-based humanities and interpretive sciences projects, mentorship, and valuable life skills instruction such as financial literacy, college preparation, public speaking, and audience engagement.
For almost two decades, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has presented the NAHYP Awards, the nation’s highest honor for out of school arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people, particularly those from underserved communities. Presented annually in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts , National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the award recognizes outstanding Creative Youth Development (CYD) programs from all over the country from a range of urban and rural settings. (See all 2017 Awardees.)
The NAHYP Award showcases and supports excellence in programs that open new pathways to learning, self-discovery, and achievement. Programs are also recognized for improving literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness.
To date, 51 students have graduated from the Museum’s High School Apprenticeship Program, 100% have graduated from high school and 94% pursued some form of post-secondary education. About 40% of alumni have returned to the museum as part-time employees, interns, volunteers, and guest speakers.
Out of a pool of over 350 NAHYP nominations nationwide, three Massachusetts programs were also recognized as finalists this year:
- Codman Academy Summer Shakespeare Institute
Huntington Theatre Company, Boston
- RAISE (Responding to Art Involves Self Expression)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown
- Shakespeare Inside and Out
Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Somerville
The achievements of these programs speak to the exemplary work in the field of CYD happening across the Commonwealth and a strong testament to all of those committed to working with youth to achieve social change through the arts, humanities, and sciences.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of Community Art Center’s Do It Your Damn Self – the longest running solely youth-led film festival in the country.
The festival is a product of Community Art Center’s Teen Media Program. Established in 1970, the program continues to inspire and empower teen storytellers to move forward with self-assurance and dignity, living out the motto and mission of “if you want something done, you gotta ‘do it your damn self!’”
Mindful from RAW Art Works’ Real To Reel Program in Lynn, MA.
The festival featured a diverse array of films with wide reaching subject matter. All the same, staying true to the original mission of the six founding teen members to, ‘make change in their communities’, themes of social justice served as a through line in multiple films.
The film #BlackLivesMatter knit together images of the harsh realities of police brutality cases in recent years and the social unrest that has given rise to protests. Similarly, hip hop music video Pain highlights a young African-American male’s perspective on police brutality. Reach, an experimental film, takes viewers inside the reality of just existing as a black person in modern day America while Fault Lines speaks to how students can easily slip through the cracks of the education system.
Reach from YouthFX in Albany, NY.
Issues of representation in the media were featured as well. The film Tokenized follows Maggie whose life is changed when she is cast as a token character in her white male best friend Spencer’s story. As Maggie adjusts to life in her new role in Spencer’s story, she becomes more aware of how the unjust “storyboard system” has negatively impacted not only her life but that of her fellow token allies. The film brilliantly ties in LGBTQ issues when a character cast as Spencer’s love interest shows interest in Maggie instead. Eventually, along with her new love interest and other ‘tokens’, Maggie confronts the system eventually flipping the script and gaining her due agency in the process.
Other films addressing media representation included The Seated Siren and Life Rolls On.
The films (narrative and documentary respectively) touch on what it’s like living with physical disabilities. In The Seated Siren, the heroine struggles with the dating pool being seen as an invalid rather than as a person with feelings. Life Rolls On highlights Danny whose life was forever changed after enduring a sports accident. The film emphasizes how Danny is actually not a victim and instead, consistently continues to conquer life and its obstacles each and every day.
By the Way, by St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Austin, TX
The festival also had its share of incredibly innovative storytelling. The film By The Way features a love story with a young couple who forms a bond over scribbling doodles on their shared desk. Finally, Mindful has a unique take on the issue of mental illness with a student personifying anxiety, depression, negativity and happiness and placing these characters into a police detective action narrative with a comedic twist.
All of the films in their own way offered an inside look at the humanity of a variety of hot topic issues that can often be difficult to fully understand when thought of at all. They were also a reminder of the arts’ power to connect people and create a space for discussion and ultimately understanding.