Changing our Narrative
As we near the end of this year long collaboration with the Social Justice Learning Institute, we bring you the penultimate episode of Changing the the Narrative - Art is Everywhere.
In episodes 1-4 our youth podcasters have shared ideas on feminism, mental health, social justice, urban entrepreneurship, and education. We've woven interviews, personal narratives, a play, an explorative essay and poems together to tell the story of Inglewood, CA from the view point of the youth growing up there.
This episode is all about expression. How do we process all we experience? How do we connect to each other by sharing what is deep within us? How do we find our strength in the joy of performing?
A Day at the Annenberg Space for Photography
What does photography have to do with Podcast? Art is always a way to deeper thinking. A visual prompt that is not already packaged and branded to sell, or influence, but instead to tell a story, inspire curiosity or lay bare an event provides an opportunity to find our our own emotion and develop our own opinions and ideas. Changing the Narrative, began with Daniel P. Castillo teaching Critical Media Literacy. What story does the media tell about People of Color in general and Inglewood specifically? How did that differ from what our youth knew of their own community and personal experiences? From the beginning, Daniel, Andrea and I wanted this project for our youth to be about finding the nuances and owning your own story. Don't let anybody tell you who you are. Decide yourself.
At the Annenberg there was a Story Corps booth, a lucky opportunity that got the reporters fired up about podcasting. We all love to be heard! Kevin Miles, a super talented musician whom you will read about more in a minute, and I discussed the process and impact of photography culturally and personally.
We came back from our field trip to the Annenberg inspired to make art via storytelling and to look at our lives with a bigger lens.
Outsource by Truth
Tashad Rutherford, Truth, has a deep story touched by violence and challenge. But you would never know it. He is positive, funny, loving, talented, and ambitious. He is a smallish compact ball of contradictions. He approaches his art with a serious and heavy heart that is always just a beat away from an easy smile. He is an instense football player, a rapper, and yet not afraid to portray a sensitive gay character in student films, or take time to help the younger reporters. He knows what he wants, what he thinks, but listens and seeks to improve with an intensity that makes you step up to the plate.
So what does his title, "Outsource" mean? Outsource by definition is to procure from outside sources. this poem personifies Truth's struggle to understand the outside influence on the state of his emotions.
Alynnah and Avery. What were we going to do with these two soft spoke 11 year old girls? How were we going to get them to talk about anything other than K-Pop? Like many adolescent girls, they are deep in the throws of substituting identity by identifying by your idols. Then we realized, that was the story! What represents 'Changing the Narrative' more than taking something seemingly insipid and finding depth? What can change the narrative more than 2 girls from Inglewood loving something so not black and getting flack for it from their peers?
What kind of connections could there be? Let's start with the music itself. K-pop is rap filtered through Korean culture. What they seek to differentiate themselves is actually predicated on African American roots from the very neighborhood in which they live!
What Avery and Alynnah resonate with in K-Pop: the colors, the happiness, the 'good personalities,' less violence, and cleaner lyrics. They seek to create a space that allows them to hold on to adolescence, to escape an environment that can sometimes expose them to issues they aren't ready or willing to process, in a country that has school shootings and rising racist incidents.
They like to be different. To be 'in their own space.' This also changes the narrative of what we know pre teen girls to be. The irony is that following this particular trend does take conviction and strength of character, when all of your friends aren't into it and make fun of you for it.
What K-Pop gives Alynnah and Avery: super powers. On a lark, I asked if they could perform a song for us. Just to get them to bust out of their shells. To our surprise and delight, they put down their devices, popped to the front of the class and gave us song and dance moves. THEY WERE AMAZING!!!! Like Wonder Woman doing a swirl they were transformed from two shy uninterested girls into two confident performers with mondo star power. I knew THIS would 'Change the Narrative' in the most direct way.
Outsourcing by Young Ambition
Not the title of a poem, but what a description of what we did! At SJLI they have a music studio, which is where we met Kevin Miles (AKA Young Ambition) an accomplished young musician. He was willing to produce Alynnah and Avery if they were willing to perform a cover. Pretty soon these shy flowers bloomed and gave us a two fabulous covers of Black Pink's La Ta Ta and As If It's Your Last. And doing that opened them up to talk and explore what k-pop means to them.
Art is Everywhere
Working with the youth at The Social Justice Learning Institute has been a pleasure. This has been the biggest age discrepancy within one group that we have ever had: 11-25. We weren't sure how that was going to work. Turns out-beautifully! There was a sense of family with the younger ones encouraged by the older ones, with everyone supporting and building upon each others ideas. This project was art from beginning to end, everywhere, all the time.
More about Changing the Narrative.
Changing the Narrative was made possible in part by a generous grant from the California Arts Council, a state agency. To learn more go to Arts.ca.gov
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