Thursday, March 6, 2008

Giving Young People a Voice

While I'm not shooting or editing my films, I spend most of my time in NYC with a great non-profit that gives free after-school spoken word poetry workshops called Urban Word NYC where I teach workshops, film events and help with the development of the organization. The young writers and poets I have met there are some of the most talented, inspiring, insightful, critical thinkers I have come across. They embody the hope I have for the future of this country.

It has always been a dream of mine to have some of them accompany me on a trip to Africa so that they can see and think for themselves about life in other different, remote places of the world. To give perspective to their own worlds as it did for me. Call me critical, but I feel most of what young people are exposed to about Africa these days involves buying a bracelet, wearing a t-shirt, or making a donation without having the opportunity to be more engaged in a sophisticated dialogue about what drives poverty, violence, etc in Africa.

The two organizations I am collaborating with on my new projects are giving me an opportunity to bring two of these young people with me to work as my assistants on my shoots. This is such a progressive way to make a film that is intended to engage their generation, I feel.

In an effort to capture and share their experiences, I've asked them to keep journals and also blog so that their peers can follow along. (If you want to view their entries, please visit A larger group will be taking a multi-country trip later in the year to meet with African scholars, writers, musicians, etc. to balance the imagery and stories coming out of the Motherland. Stay tuned.