“We want our voices to be heard…what people call the ghetto, like here our neighborhood, that’s our life. That’s our sense of peace and we want others to see that we’re more than what people make us out there to be, and that’s why I joined Free Spirit Media just for the simple fact that we can express ourselves, we have a voice that we didn’t have, we are the voice for the voiceless.”

– Sidney, age 16.

 Sidney takes a portrait of Robert

image: Sidney takes a portrait of Ronald 

Yesterday I was invited to be a guest speaker for Real Chi Youth, a program led by Free Spirit Media on the campus of North Lawndale College Prep focused on putting media making into the hands of one of Chicago’s most misrepresented populations: youth. Creating a mobile newsroom for young people to express themselves and engage in critical dialogue that grants more efficacy than mainstream media, these young reporters will focus on themes that affect youth, creating a platform for their voices to be heard.

audio piece: Sidney, age 16 and Ronald, age 19, discuss the importance of empowering the youth voice and being involved in Real Chi Youth. 

After presenting my work I spent time talking with the youth as they worked on their photo project for the day. Their openness, intelligence, passion and respect made the evening a rewarding experience. It  filled me with hope realizing the bright and powerful future our youth can and will have. Real Chi Youth is led by Free Spirit Media’s Civic Innovation and Hacking (CIH) program,  an experimental school-year jobs program for teens focused on civics, media and technology.  I find it crucial for youth of color to be given the tools and opportunities to learn journalistic skills so they can be a voice of change. From the discussions I had with some of the students it was obvious that they too understood the need and urgency to break negative stereotypes associated with black youth in the media.

These young people were an absolute pleasure and I am honored to have met them. Thank you for sharing your photos, ideas and opinions with me.  It is beautiful and inspiring to witness a group of black youth in a program surrounded by educators and supporters who are truly passionate about creating critical thinkers, game changers, activists, and artists.

*A special thank you to  Andrea Hart and Amir George for having me. Keep doing that magic ya’ll do.*

Click here to learn more about Real Chi Youth and their partnerships.

Click on photos below to enlarge