Teens Take Charge
Featured Artists • Issue 5
Each issue, we typically explore in-depth the work of a single artist, writer, or filmmaker. But for this fifth issue, Artificial Realities, we’ve opened the door wider: to the 12 members of Teens Take Charge, a new student-led movement for educational equity in New York City. Why? Because these students are changing the way people talk about public school education by shining a real and urgent light on how political policies play into their lived realities.
The launch event, entitled “To Whom It Should Concern,” was hosted at The Bronx Library Center and featured testimony in the form of open letters, slam poetry, spoken word, rap, and a live discussion with the audience. The power of their performances extended well beyond that evening. Most recently, their words attracted the attention of The New York Times, who featured excerpts from five students.
To showcase their voices on The Seventh Wave, we brought in a camera and hit record; now, we’re hitting publish. First up is Yacine Fall, who during the very first meeting back in February said, “People underestimate the power of giving youth pens.” Her open letter provides proof of that power, as she directs her focus toward segregation, as well as integration.
But the event didn’t begin on stage. For an hour and a half prior to the official program, Teens Take Charge members led a variety of pre-event activities, including a letter-writing station (over 30 people, ages 8 to 45, wrote letters addressed to whom it should concern), a photo booth (where people stood with a sign that displayed something they wished people would see about their educational reality), and an art walk (that displayed a spectrum of statistics). These were components that the students had decided upon during their meetings in the weeks leading up to the event. They discussed in detail every aspect of the four-hour program.
Through it all, interaction was the key element. The students wanted the audience to not just observe, but participate and engage with the issues. At one point during the official program, the audience became the performers. Luke Nephew from The Peace Poets, one of two adult performers (the other being Yahdon Israel, creator of the literary-fashion movement #LiterarySwag), led the audience in a series of empowering chants:
It was a vocal night, but just as quickly as the audience was to speak up, cheer, and snap, so would silence fall over the crowd for entire performances. One such moment was when Kareem “Dream” Armfield took to the stage, turned on the speakers, and rapped. For one minute and forty seconds, all eyes and ears were on him:
You can visit their website, www.teenstakecharge.com, to read their letters in full, stay up-to-date with future events, buy some swag, donate to the movement, and see some of the statistics behind the issues they are addressing. You can also learn more about the origin story that led to the movement, as well as how you can participate from anywhere on the globe. You can find them @teenstakecharge on Facebook and Instagram, or by using the hashtag #TeensTakeCharge on Twitter.