Week One: Eyes Wide Open

“Excuse me, what is this class for?” His 5’’4’ frame stood before me covered in a black pullover and the classic blue uniform pants. I looked up from the table and explained it was a photography class and that I even had cameras for him to use.  “Thank you”. He went over to the table and took a seat. I think the promise to throw them a big party once class was over and invite lots of people to come and check out their work is what really drew him in.  Three other boys came after him and one little girl. We spent the spent the next hour discussing the proper way to handle a camera, point of view and composition. Half our time was spent outside taking pictures.  I’m gonna stop talking and let you all see where my photography students are starting 🙂  My posts for the next few weeks will be all about Lamontez, Markevius, Carmen, Ron and Myron. They are the brave souls that dare to learn something different and I am so honored to be learning with them!

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Why Kuumba?

A few years ago I became obsessed with the idea and principle of Kuumba, a community art center in Ensley. You may ask why Ensley and why art? At its inception all I could tell you was that I wanted it to be in Ensley because that is where I was born and raised. My mom gave birth to me at Holy Family Hospital now a dilapidated building in Ensley. Ensley loved and nurtured me. It didn’t have much to offer but it was and still is my home. I’m a photographer so, it only makes sense that I’d be drawn to the arts and would desire to share that with my community.

However, I knew it would take more than sentiment and personal enjoyment to get a community art center going. So, I started doing some research. I discovered http://www.aep-arts.org/ . They have done so much research to help make a case for the arts. This is where my sentiment and personal enjoyment turned into some more. Something that would sustain me through the difficulty of launching a business, a non-profit for that matter J I learned that arts participation “enabled students to develop a sense of identity and self-direction as well as attitudes of empathy, tolerance and cooperation. . .Through arts experiences young people are able to build powerful communities in which they can thrive”.  Study after study proves that like team sports, participation in the arts have benefits that go beyond artistic technique and skill.

Ensley is a predominantly black neighborhood. Everyday our young black boys and girls are inundated with images that tell them who they are, who they should be, and who they can’t be.  They must learn to define themselves for themselves if they are to thrive in today’s world. I believe in the power of community. I know what when children are supported, when all the people in a community are supported they can and will come together to achieve a common goal. Kuumba helps encourage community by having family art night. This is a time when the community can come together to support one another and create new works of art. We encourage mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and every interested person in the community to join us for family art night. As members of the same community we are family!

The school systems have very little to offer to students that are not athletically inclined. We have too many youth with idle hands and too much time.  I’m tired of hearing and reading about what’s wrong in Ensley. I’m ready to take action, give my hands, my feet, my heart, my time and my money to the struggle. Kuumba exists to give our youth something to say yes to! The benefits are innumerable.

Are you ready to lend your hands to the struggle? If so please contact us!

**source material below

You Want To Be A Part of Everything: A REPORT FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2OO3 FORUM OF THE ARTS EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP LINCOLN CENTER, NEW YORK CITY