"Level Up" - YO-SOS
It's been a minute...
Its been a min since my last post but because of a recent accomplishment I felt the need to share this highlight of my 2018. About a month ago the recent class of YO-SOS (Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets) graduated from their after-school program. As mentioned a few times on my social media, I was one of Urban Art Beat's lead mentors that facilitated an anti-gun project with the youth at YO-SOS. YO-SOS' mission?
- "Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.) is a youth development program that aims to train young people to become peer educators and community organizers on issues of violence prevention and community building."
For those that don’t know, I’ve been working under Urban Art Beat for the past two years now. UAB has gone into public schools throughout all the five boroughs organizing artistic workshops that challenge the youth assess the communities they live in and question them how to make it better. In addition to providing mentors the opportunity to facilitate workshops for youth, UAB was contracted to orchestrate music programs at Rikers Island. Little did I know these workshops in Rikers and various public schools would help me narrow down the specific oppressive systems that I personally want to fight in my life. Ironically enough almost all of the UAB projects I've worked on in these schools centered around the themes of mass incarceration, from police brutality to anti-gun violence.
This isn't UAB's first rodeo with YO-SOS. Just two years ago they helped facilitate a music video with the YO-SOS youth that is often taught in UAB workshops today. Urban Art Beat came through with amazing mentors/teaching artists to create the brilliant "One Shot".
This time around our focus was to guide the youth in making a song with a mini-doc to go with it. Needless to say it was a great experience. I was in charge of drafting up agendas that molded the workflow of our sessions. What made this facilitation experience different for me was the fact that our finished product had to be tracked, both from a audio and visual standpoint. So it was a mission, to say the least, to separate everyone into their respective groups and then bring them together to work on this overall goal. Week after week the youth were heavily engaged in writing workshops, recording sessions, video/photo shoots, etc. Fortunately for all of us the Crown Heights Mediation Center had an incredible space in their basement which had separate rooms, a perfect set-up for our writing, beat-making, and recording sessions.
The youth at YO-SOS all had different, eccentric personalities. All of em had great energy and vibes, from Matt Black's sarcasm to Helene's swagger. It felt like there was never a slow day at the Crown Heights Mediation Center. In true high school spirit the ambiance of the room was often filled with jokes and smiles. But when the time came to put in work, they knew when to crack down and get busy. When the song was finished they had to prep for two separate shows in which they had to speak about their experience and answer questions from the audience, one at BRIC and one at Repair the World. Now, here is where they really shinned. What stated out as Naomi, Cassandra, Helene, and D'andre volunteering as the brave souls to speak, turned into the whole gang speaking at the panel. They spoke from the heart and with raging confidence, tacking any questioned proposed by the audience. To top it all off though, their last event at Repair the World featured accapella performances from Helene rapping the chorus and Migos rapping his verse. Everyone from the audience to the mentors were impressed by their speaking, as well as the performance from the other YO-SOS group's theater performance guided by Theater of the Oppressed NYC .
Urban Art Beat finished the session feeling proud of everything made by the youth. At both events I had to stress that they literally made the beat, wrote the raps, tracked the vocals, and recorded most video footage all from scratch. There was contribution from all sides, from Brian and James (who also spoke in the intro) working on the beat to Helene's potent lyricism to Cassandra and Hernan handling the engineering to Naomi solely holding down the video front. All of this was made possible by two amazing staff members at YO-SOS, Rahson Johnson (who was there every step of the way) and Heather Day who oversaw the overall project. They, among other staff, also taught the youth (throughout the school school year) various anti-violence workshops, educating them on the practicality of deescalating violence in their respective Brooklyn neighborhoods. And of course we cant forget about our UAB mentors Kate Eberstadt, Troy .Atlas, Karina Sindicich, Issac Calvin, Caroline Grogan, Kelsea Feder, special guests Napoleon the Legend and Nejma Nefertiti, and of course the anchors of Urban Art Beat themselves, the heart and soul, Spiritchild and Rosa <3
Much love everybody,