photo by Andrew Traylor Jones
Youth Voices Rise Up 2016
NOVEMBER 1, 2016 | BY MYAH OVERSTREET
Consulting Producer, Youth Engagement
When I first began working on this project, to curate an inspiring collection of media created by youth in 2016, I didn’t know where to start—I didn’t know who to contact, what artists to recruit, or what kind of media I was really going for. The only thought that truly gave me inspiration was the thought, the vision, of living in a world transformed by art that young minds created, and how much I yearned to create this world. So I began building a new world, rather than simply an editorial, from scratch, hoping it would morph into something magnificent as I went along, and I am so thrilled to say that it most certainly has. I hope this editorial provides readers with an idea of how golden our world can be, a world that we are all enamored by. The artists that are featured below have the tools, the vision, the minds, the drive, and the hearts to cover our world in gold; these artists have the power to teach us all a lesson on how we need to begin re-sculpting our beloved world into a more empathetic, prosperous, compassionate, affectionate world.
RYSE Center, Richmond, California
A 23-year-old filmmaker from Richmond, California, Gemikia Henderson strives to create art that persuades people to think and look at situations through a personal lens. Her love for filmmaking began when she realized the power she possesses and learned to create art that was a reflection of her mind. She learned to challenge mainstream media by telling the truth and inspiring those around her who may have lost hope or that simply needed encouragement. Henderson believes and understands that change is a heavy word, with heavy implications, and that change will not happen with one artist alone. With the union of artists around the globe, lives can be changed and stories can be rewritten.
“I am a filmmaker that speaks for my community through my videos. I love what I do because I can uplift others, speak truthfully about things that society misrepresents, and challenge systems of oppression using their own tools. Seeing other people smile or feel like they can make a change in the world because of the art I produce is worth more to me than any awards. I am a filmmaker who produces media for a purpose.”
Andrew Traylor Jones
Independent Artist, Berkeley, California
from “Still Movements: San Francisco” by Andrew Traylor Jones
A 19-year-old photographer, writer, designer, and visual artist from Berkeley, California, Andrew Traylor Jones captures the pure essence of San Francisco in his original photo series Still Movements: San Francisco. He was inspired to create such powerful art by Fredrick Douglass and his work with daguerreotypes and self-portraiture. Showing a true passion for better communication between the artist and its viewers, Jones believes that visual art is needed to balance the visual disequilibrium and environment, filled with biased narratives, that we are all living in. With more visual art and storytelling comes more genuine communication and empathy; therefore, the bettering of our world.
“As an artist I value honest expression and communication. I think the best art is the art the artist loves, not necessarily the viewers. In all my art and expression, I aim to share the content that resonates with me the most, rather than what may get more ‘likes’—my rationale being that, I think the potential connection between the artist and the viewer is more genuine this way. Therefore, with a more genuine connection, there can be more honest communication between the art piece and its audience.”
Charles “Honey Padre” Honeywood
Donda’s House, Chicago, Illinois
A 26-year-old artist from the South Side of Chicago Illinois, Charles “Honey Padre” Honeywood is an upcoming artist we all need to watch out for. Thanks to his talent for writing catchy radio-friendly hip-hop songs that connect immediately with audiences, Charles’ talent landed him on the 2015 Louder Than A Bomb mixtape; he is a Class of 2014 alumnus of Kanye West’s Donda’s House nonprofit; and his versatility also landed his songs “His Demons”and “Baby Girl” on WGCI’s Music Mondays—all great accomplishments that has other artists and musicians interested in his songwriting abilities. Although his roots are firmly placed in rap and hip hop, he draws inspiration from many different lyrical and musical influences. Listen to “His Demons” below.
“I find myself being inspired by the simplest things when writing and creating art. From the distinct smell of a gas station in the wintertime to the blaring vibrations coming from various cars in the middle of the summer. I feel writing poetry is one of the many ways I express myself. I like to think of myself as a very soft-spoken person at times, especially when meeting new people. Other times, I am the type to wear my heart on my sleeve.
“Poetry is a part of me. With each poem that I write, a piece of my day-to-day experiences is written down and recorded for others to partake in. Like many, I get inspired by other artists, visuals, and poets. It may vary from my thoughts on politics and society, down to finding the beauty in a world filled with violence and destruction. I tend to see sayings, quotes, and images that go together in some creative way.”
Appalshop, Whitesburg, Kentucky
24-year-old filmmaker Brandon Jent set out to remake the world into a brighter and more understanding place, from his point of view, starting with his home town of Whitesburg, Kentucky. After recently graduating from the University of Kentucky’s Latino Studies Program, he had a desire to learn more about the increasing population of Latin-Americans and Hispanic-identifying people. With his fellow youth filmmakers Shannel Arellano (22), Kyra Higgins (18), and Courtney Johnson (16), their goal was to find out whether or not Latin-Americans living in Appalachian Kentucky felt isolated in a place that is perceived to be isolating. Jent believes that there is so much more work to do in this world, but is completely in awe of how far we’ve come, and can’t wait to see what the future holds.
“I have a personal interest in making art about my particular little corner of the world, but I do think there are larger themes to consider that can generate change. I’m very adamant about subverting the narrative that has been bestowed upon the Appalachian region and my hope is to be part of those that are working to replace the one that exists outside of the mountains with the true narrative—the reality—of living in and loving these mountains.
“We don’t live in the black-and-white images and video that have propagated stereotypes and told our story for us—mostly without our perspective or our permission—for more than half a century. We live in color. We’re vibrant. We’re multi-faceted and we come from a wealth of different experiences, places and walks of life. We all have a story to tell and I want them all told, all of us represented. I hope that by sharing stories of my region in a way that’s fair, true, and accurate to those that tell them, other folks will tell their stories too, share what it’s really like to be from where they’re from, too, and contribute to what will hopefully result in a mutual understanding of all places and faces, all regions, all identities, all across the globe.”
Jaliyah Armstead, Andres Delgado, Casey Pitts, Yahyness White
Free Spirit Media, Chicago, Illinois
Brilliantly pieced together, “The Dividing Line of Chicago” explores the segregation that divides Chicago, and how segregation is strongly correlated with race and income. Created by Free Spirit Media Artists Jaliyah Armstead, Andres Delgado, Casey Pitts, and Yahyness White, the film captures the perspectives of people from multiple neighborhoods throughout the city. The Dividing Line of Chicago illuminates the truth about modern day segregation that plagues all of Chicago and prompts viewers to question the segregation in their own cities. Truly enlightening—these young artists have created a film that will inspire viewers of all ages to view the world with polychromatic lenses rather than monochromatic lenses in order to color the world in with diversity and open-mindedness.
“There are very few places in the world that are both diverse and integrated. Most of these are thriving, vibrant, prosperous places where people are making the most of their lives. They’re the places that we want to emulate for the future if we want to be the strongest we can be.” (Rob Breymeir, Executive Director, Oak Park Regional Housing Center)
Protect and Serve
PhillyCam, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Given the importance of addressing police brutality and institutionalized discrimination today, this film was created right on time. “Protect and Serve,” edited by Aniya Wolfe and Aaliyah Malik-Kahn, perfectly captures the negative impact that police brutality has had on Philadelphia’s communities and, in particular, young people. To put it as simply as possible, this film effortlessly humanizes people of color and sheds a light on the real effect of police brutality in neighborhoods across America. After watching this film, I was instantly grateful, and I felt as though a heavy load of silence and grief had been lifted off of my shoulders; as though I was now able to think clearly about such a major issue plaguing our society.
“Sometimes, I fear that all they see is a ‘black thug’, as they might say” (Josh, 17)
“I feel like the police view me and every other minorities as a criminal” (Roger, 17)
“The police [probably] view me as [just] ‘Another Black girl’” (Jada, 18)
“Just because I’m by myself, or it’s dark and I’m dressed in dark clothes, [doesn’t mean] that I’m out to get anybody [or] take their purse” (Simone, 14)
“Anybody who’s black and male, they aren’t doing the bad things” (Stephen, 17)
PhillyCam, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A 17-year-old PhillyCam member and videographer, Roger Castillo gives us some insight on what life is like as a young male artist growing up in Philadelphia with his short film “Inside the Mind of Nazeer Horner.” Beautifully painting a picture of a young man growing up with big dreams and a big heart, Castillo gives us something real to think about, something oddly and amazingly human, and helps us realize the beauty of having dreams.
“My dad left, and I had my mom. She didn’t teach me how to be a man but she [gave] me the blueprints. She showed me something that my dad [didn’t show me]. My mom, being this big role model in my life, she [inspired] me to be deep and spiritual . . . I hope to be somewhere and be a name, an underground name, like Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole. I hope to be one of them . . . I want to take my friends out of here, my mom. I got a lot going on right now, big dreams.” (Nazeer Horner)
A Concluding Note from the Editor: I wanted to leave this collection of art with a proper concluding note because, as we all know, everything needs proper closure. Working on this project has truly been an educating and enlightening experience for me, as I was able to absorb all of the knowledge, dreams, and observations that young people just like me have uncovered and recorded across the country. The works of art displayed here are truly inspiring, empowering, and overwhelmingly satisfying, as they feed our desires to understand our society in its simplest, most peaceful state. I hope, as a reader and viewer, you have taken away a better understanding of how our world can change through powerful art, and that the artists to create such works are never who we initially assume they are. They are not global entertainers or legendary superstars; rather, they are the young artists that walk our streets every day, going about their lives with their dreams blocking their view of the chaotic scenes around them. These young artists have the keys to our golden future. — Myah Overstreet