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Young people use art to accentuate the positive in Raleigh project

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Yari Mello (Image supplied)
Ta’Ziya Kelly (Image supplied)
Siannon Thomas (Image supplied)
Rico Mink (Image supplied)
Aries Mosley-Lee (Image supplied)
Kimura Cole (Image supplied)
Amiyah Anderson (Image supplied)
Ajahni Smith (Image supplied)
Treasure Hypolite (Image supplied)
Torrell Stuart (Image supplied)
Picture this: The Raleigh Bermuda participants taking part in the I Am Brave: Youth Against Violence programme (Image supplied)
Painted: Works by internationally-acclaimed US artist Tehinde Wiley (Photographs supplied)

Young people involved in an adventure training charity have been featured in digital artworks as part of a project designed to battle negative stereotypes of Black people.

Dany Pen, the executive director of Raleigh Bermuda, said the art project, part of the I Am Brave: Youth Against Violence midterm break camp, was designed “take back the narrative” on the portrayal of Black people, indigenous people and people of colour, who were often represented as associated with drugs, crime and violence.

The portraits of ten high school-aged Raleigh Bermuda participants were inspired by the work of American artist Kehinde Wiley.

Mr Wiley has painted major Black figures set against lush floral backgrounds, including an official portrait of former US president Barack Obama in 2018.

Ms Pen said it was important to help people to identify with positive aspects of their cultures.

She added: “One of the projects the ‘bravers’ worked on during the camp was becoming effective advocates in the community and tackling the root issues of why we have violence in our community.

“One of the projects they explored was how people of colour are portrayed in the media and they were able to learn about artist Kehinde Wiley, who is a really famous international artist.

“Together, they were able to work on a project creating their own empowerment and heroic photoshoot portraying people of colour in a positive light and also controlling the narrative of what the media portrays of Bipoc communities.”

Yari Mello, 14, said the photoshoot helped to boost his confidence and that it was an inspiration to learn about a Black artist with an international reputation.

He added: “I thought it was cool because there are not that many Black artists out there and he is really good.

“The photoshoot was cool, we were given a lot of freedom with it.”

Torrell Stuart, 17, said he had noticed one-sided depictions of Black people in the media and highlighted how the work of Mr Wiley, whose portraits of Mr Obama and wife Michelle were said to have boosted visitor numbers at the US National Portrait Gallery by a million, was a major antidote.

Torrell added that media portrayals were one-sided and too often concentrated on Black crime.

He said: “While that happens on both sides in the real world, there is never any real portrayal of it happening on both sides in the media – it’s mostly just Black people who are portrayed in this light.

“There are more positive projects that have been done by Black people.”

The youngsters discussed Bipoc leaders who had inspired them, including Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Mr Obama before they started the art project.

I Am Brave: Youth Against Violence also included discussions on ways to tackle violence and how to distinguish between good and bad relationships.

Ms Pen said: “Our ‘bravers’ are taking this conversation on a whole new level, getting really down into the depths of what is happening in our community, looking into the roots, the layers and intergenerational trauma that we are going through as a community.

“They have been working on various projects holding important conversations and trying to find reliable solutions that they can take action on.

“There are a lot of emotions that get explored. They will have to tackle their triggers, their traumas, collective and individual and go on a journey that looks to them to help heal within themselves in order to help the community heal.”

Raleigh’s core membership is aged from 17 to 24 and the charity is focused on helping young people transition to adulthood.

Ms Pen said the I Am Brave: Youth Against Violence programme was launched at the start of last year to include 14- to 17-year-olds because gangs had targeted younger children as recruits.

She added: “We know that our children are entering gangs at a younger age. We know that in order tackle this problem in our community – gangs and violence – we have to work with our youth much younger.

“Within just a year the programme has been so successful that we have had over 60 teenagers come through.

“We are so grateful that they have remained with us and continue to be advocates and the new leaders in our community."

The camp’s participants also commemorated Malcolm Outerbridge, a Raleigh participant who was just 18 when he was stabbed to death in 2011.

For more information about Raleigh Bermuda, visit https://raleigh.bm/.

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Published November 05, 2021 at 10:39 am (Updated November 05, 2021 at 10:39 am)

Young people use art to accentuate the positive in Raleigh project

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