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Connecting Youth to Civic Engagement through Technology

Connecting Youth to Civic Engagement through Technology

For the past five years I have had the pleasure of serving as the Executive Director of DIVAS (Digital, Interactive, Visual, Arts, Sciences) for Social Justice. DIVAS for Social Justice is a grassroots arts volunteer led organization for young women in under served communities in Brooklyn, New York. The mission of this organization is for these women to learn leadership skills, obtain economic sustainability through technology and develop critical thinking skills through the arts. Our flagship summer program, “Imaging Ourselves”, has received funding every year since we started and we have been able to offer young women and some young men (we welcome all) to free digital photography and Adobe Photoshop classes for 8 weeks, which culminates in an exhibition of their summer work and closing ceremony. For the past five years I have had the pleasure of teaching and learning from youth from Bed Stuy, Bushwick, East New York, Canarsie, Flatbush, Clinton Hills and Fort Greene.  Along with learning cool technical skills, our youth have participated in conversations about how women of color images are manipulated by the media. Sometimes the conversation is erupted with anger over the realization of the lack of acceptance of black and brown beauty. Sometimes this realization is met with tears. But the goal of the program always empowers our youth to create positive images of themselves. They rise to the occasion when challenged and this must be acknowledged and encouraged. This summer as we prepared for the “Imaging Ourselves” program we thought it was important that we not only speak to our youth about the manipulation of black and brown beauty but we also introduce them to the beautiful women from communities like their own who fought for social change.  While still taking positive images of themselves, each youth was given a name of a woman from Brooklyn who has touched peoples’ lives or has fought for social change. The youth researched the women assigned to them and created, “Andy Warhol Inspired Screen Prints of iconic women from Brooklyn. At the end of our summer program, the iconic images created by the youth were on display at the Macon Public Library for their families to see. There was a great sense of pride in the room. Our youth need to understand they stand on the shoulders that came before them but they need to be educated about our community leaders as well. It is their civil right. With technology becoming the cultural broker worldwide it is our responsibility to train our youth in developing their voice for social change and representing themselves in social media in a positive way.  For 2013, DIVAS for Social Justice wants to launch a multi-media after school program to train our young women to be citizen journalists in their communities, while learning about women globally and locally who have made a difference in social justice movements. We would also like to connect our youth with women who are making a difference in our community right now. Please take the time to learn more about our campaign for our after-school program and donate at:

http://www.indiegogo.com/inhershoesproject

 

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