National Youth Initiative Sites
As part of the national outreach for Africans in America, WGBH worked with eight sites where youth actively explored early American history through community projects. The sites were built on a partnership among three or more organizations: a youth-serving organization, a museum or historical agency, and a public television station. The youth projects were used as the catalyst for a local forum to engage the larger community in early American history and help explore the issues of race and American identity.
The following descriptions of national youth initiative projects may give you ideas for the kind of activities you could launch in your community.
Los Angeles, California
Project Description: With its project partners, FAME youth produced a video entitled "God's Chosen Leaders" which highlighted the racial struggles within the religious community in the 18th century, particularly in the Methodist Church. Out of this struggle came the African Methodist Episcopal Church, established by Richard Allen in Philadelphia. The accompanying community forum discussed the shifting racial issues of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles
Jenise Cooley, Project Coordinator
2270 South Harvard Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90018
Partners: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History; KCET
Project Description: Through a video, "The House that Courage Built," and a Web site, youth expressed their perspectives on the struggle for freedom, American identity, and the role of history in shaping one's personal identity. The video was used as the catalyst for a community forum, and presented at a number of community events.
Street-Level Youth Media
Ayanna U'Dongo, Project Coordinator
P.O. Box 578836
Chicago, IL 60657
Partners: Chicago Historical Society; Duncan YMCA Chernin's Center for the Arts; Elliott Donnelley Youth Center; Gallery 37; WTTW
Project Description: Boston youth told stories of contradiction, leadership, hope, and resistance to slavery through the lens of their own experience in an innovative multimedia exhibit entitled "'Bout Freedom." The exhibit featured painting, sculpture, slides, and photography, created by local teens and inspired by themes from the PBS series Africans in America. (Visit the 'Bout Freedom Virtual Gallery at the Boston Architectural Center Web site.) The "'Bout Freedom" exhibit culminated in a community forum exploring contemporary issues of American identity and race.
Valerie Grabiel, Project Coordinator
125 Western Avenue
Boston, MA 02134
(617) 492-2777, ext. 3827
Partners: Artists for Humanity; The Institute of Contemporary Art; YWCA's Youth Voice Collaborative; Museum of Afro American History
St. Charles, Missouri
Project Description: Youth at the St. Charles site shared the local legacy of the Underground Railroad through plays, a video, and an art exhibit. They also wrote a series of articles about the meanings of race in the lives of young people today. The culminating community forum included a museum display, and a discussion of why this history is important.
Youth In Need
Karen Thomson, Executive Director
St. Charles, MO 63301
Partners: Black History Museum; KETC
New York, New York
Project Description: The New York site created a theatrical presentation featuring narrative, rap, dance, and music celebrating the lives of Africans in New York during the early part of American history. "Don't See My Bones and Think I'm Dead" was inspired by the archeological findings from New York's African Burial Ground and highlighted African American traditions that have evolved since early colonial America.
Henry Street Settlement Abrons Arts Center
Patricia Herrera, Project Coordinator
466 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002
Partners: African Burial Ground; WNET
Project Description: Youth at this site produced a video documentary entitled "Struggle in the Shadows: Philadelphia's Free African Youth." The film focused on how African American youth were educated in 19th-century Philadelphia and was broadcast on local public t.v. station WHYY. Ceramic commemorative plaques were designed and installed at sites identified by the video team.
Scribe Video Center
Roxana Walker-Canton, Project Coordinator
1342 Cypress Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Partners: The Charles Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University; WHYY
Charleston, South Carolina
Project Description: A youth-produced exhibit -- with artifacts (letters, poems, and petitions), period rooms, and a video documentary about leadership -- illuminated the collective contributions of early Africans and Europeans as they built Charleston, established themselves as active citizens in the community, and pursued an early "American Dream." The video, "Our Side, East Side" was broadcast on local public t.v. station SCETV.
Youth Service Charleston
Lela Severance, Executive Director
75 Calhoun Street, 2nd Floor
Charleston, SC 29403
Partners: Avery Research Center; SCETV
Project Description: The Nashville site used a musical theater production with youth and current Fisk Jubilee Singers to demonstrate the historical, educational, and cultural impact of the original performance group as it introduced spirituals to an international audience in the 19th century. "Looking Up!" focused on spirituals as a form of resistance. Youth also wrote essays on the cultural significance of various spirituals for publication in Contempora magazine and local newspapers.
Pleasant Green Community Development Corporation, Inc.
Lee Mayberry, Project Coordinator
707 Vanderhorst Drive
Nashville, TN 37207
Partners: Race Relations Institute, Fisk University; WDCN
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