When I was in my early 20's, it was my goal to use my artistry to help disenfranchised youth find their voices. Whether through digital storytelling, video production, or photography. I feel that it's imperative for black youth to be acknowledged and feel like they matter. My desire and passion for youth empowerment continues to follow me, even more so now than ever. Living in rural pa, I am surrounded by people who don't look like me. Not only this, but some don't even value my existence as much as I do. There are some who see me as another statistic, as another thug, as another black body taking up space in their town. But that is far from the truth. My existence transcends beyond what people may hear, read, or see in the media. My existence is not simplified to superficial adjectives that people say both to my face and behind my back. My existence matters and should not just be recognized, acknowledged, or celebrated when I'm gone. And if I feel this way for myself and my family, I can only imagine how other families of color feel in my community. So I've decided to use my art to do something about it. I created this project titled "More Than A Hashtag".
More Than A Hashtag is in response to black lives mostly being acknowledged and recognized when something tragic has happened. Yet that is simply not our reality. The minority youth in my community are more than the simplistic labels and hashtags that society puts on us. I want to create a space where youth can really showcase who they are, what they value, and why they matter. So I'm working with families of color to change the narrative. I want to learn more about who their children really are, their interests, their desires, their motivations, etc. And with this information, I want to create portraits that not only embody these qualities but will empower them to show the world that they matter and are more than any hashtag that society might label them.
Paired with these meaningful portraits are the stories behind them. Each family's story gives you a glimpse to why their black children matter. I implore to you look, listen, and engage. For some, this might be the beginning of the conversation, and for other's it's a continuation. Wherever you are in this conversation, I thank you for your willingness to acknowledge, encourage, and empower the black youth that exist in your community. Thank you for showing up and making a difference because we are More Than A Hashtag!
If you are in located in the Centre Country region and are interested in participating in this project, please feel free to reach out in comments below.