2017 Week Four: Arts

picture of Naadiya HutchinsonNAADIYA HUTCHINSON | 901 ARTS

On our most recent Baltimore Bites event, we had the pleasure of hearing from Marc Steiner on his opinion on the media but also other current events and affairs in Baltimore. As I sat and listened to this white man, talk to me about blackness, I felt a mix of emotions. The overwhelming one, probably being a mix of frustration and sadness. Mr. Steiner had said that a board of directors that had white people on it would be more successful than an all-black board of directors. It was like a punch to the gut. What am I striving for? If in the end the person that is going to have the most impact is a white person. Does this mean that I am destined to sit in the back of the bus of an organization because I am black and therefore a hindrance to my own community? When I zoom out and look at black youth and how we treat black success in schools, I realize that we are very focused on making sure black youth don’t drop out, but we really neglect to see whether black youth are going to college AND graduating from college. Of course a black board of directors would likely be less effective if they didn’t have the appropriate connections to help out fiscally, but shouldn’t a college degree afford black youth the connections they need? We already recognize that people with money have power, yet many of the programs I see aimed towards black youth are for lower middle class jobs. Why does it seem like people don’t want black people to have or to acknowledge the presence of Black Power?

photo of Jimmy Li CIIPJIMMY LI | JUBILEE ARTS

“I just want to share with y’all something that I wrote…”

The youth, standing in front of 40 community members, breaks out into a slam poem about his team and what they are doing for the Waverly community. His ever changing rhythm and rhymes take us on a speeding roller coaster twisting around the sinuous syllables of each word. At the end of it all, the entire group gives him a round of thundering applause.

Where did this youth come from? How did he get so good at having fun with words? Most importantly, why don’t I see the same passion in other youth?

Our youth go through slam poetry workshops along with painting murals. The workshop leader said what got him into slam poetry was when he went through a bad break up. He wanted to write about his feelings, and that was the start of a passion.

How can we as interns, leaders, and organizers spark similar kinds of passion? This program is meant to show youth potential careers in the arts and to build communities. However, to leave the lasting impact that we hope this program will do, we have to leave the youth with some of that passion. Instead of turning to drugs or to gangs to express themselves, the youth can express themselves through art or service.

Many of the youth said that they were here just for the check, and it shows. The program has large segments of downtime when it rains or when there isn’t enough work for the day, and so much of the youth simply turn on their phones. Perhaps we can ignite a passion by having youth instead draw something important to them or talk to the artist about professional opportunities in the arts. Either way, there’s plenty of opportunity to turn this from “just a job” to willing to go above and beyond because of passion.

picture of Osiris Mancera CIIPOSIRIS MANCERA | THE GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY CENTER OF BALTIMORE AND CENTRAL MARYLAND (GLCCB)

There’s this one quote from Afrofuturistic Screenwriter Ytasha Womack that I really love. It goes “Hope, much like imagination, comes at premium. The cost is a life where more is expected. Where more is expected, new actions are required. The audacity of hope, the bold declaration to believe, and clarity of vision for a better life and world are the seeds to personal growth, revolutionized societies, and life changing technologies.” That’s what I thought during the Midpoint speaker and for A LOT of this week. She’s talking about hope as a catalyst for change. Although there are so many emotions that can and do fuel activism, I think the most powerful one is hope because it is futuristic in nature. Hope considers the past and present instances of goodness and possibility, stretching it into future contexts and worlds. Hope is powerful because it tells the world and the oppressors that we have not given up and will continue aiming for justice. Marc Steiner was refreshing because he represented love for community in every sense of the word. He represented hope in the world, from his activism during his youth to his work with youth now to promote racial justice. A lot of what he spoke about I’d heard before: The realities of injustices like redlining and food deserts. My worry is becoming insensitive to these systemic criminal acts – it’s tough. It’s tough wanting and needing to be involved in making change and demanding reparations/justice while remaining fresh and not robotic. However, I believe because I, my family, and my friends are directly involved and enmeshed in this mess, I’m in a space where this is an issue. However, going back to hope, I think that if it still remains an important part of my life and an important value to me, I will continue thinking about and evaluating my thoughts and actions so that this does not happen. It cannot happen.

picture of Blessing Ogunyemi CIIPBLESSING OGUNYEMI | EUBIE BLAKE CULTURAL CENTER

We’re now at the halfway point of CIIP and everything seems to be moving along like a well-oiled machine. In the gifted and talented music program the students seem more relaxed and comfortable participating in different warmups and exercises. I can also see this through their day-to-day interactions.

This week, the students has a master class with Janice Eteme, a very amazing soprano vocalist, and it was amazing! So far they’ve been getting exposure to several different areas in the arts and I’m so glad this program is able to provide that for them. Having this sort of exposure at an earlier age will no doubt influence their futures as musicians. Although they are already very talented, I’m excited to be able to see how much they have grown by the end of the summer program.
This week we will be having another master class as well as visiting Baltimore Center Stage and the Maryland Historical Society where we will all be able to learn more about Eubie Blake and his music. I’ve looked through the Eubie Blake exhibit at the center and I’m very excited to be able to compare it to the one at the historical center and see the impact he and his music had on the city. This week we will also be having a shed. We will be joined be other music students from other programs and other musicians around the area. People will then have the opportunity to perform pieces they’ve been working on, original pieces, or other things they want to share. This will be a great opportunity to expose the students to other artists and allow them to show their work and creativity. I’m really excited for this upcoming week and can’t wait for all this to happen.

Until next time.

Ciao!

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