This summer SPOKE launched YouthSpeak, a new initiative that opens digital space for young people in Boston public housing to share their stories about their lives and their communities and earn money in the process.
With funding from the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), SPOKE partnered with a talented team of creative entrepreneurs from TrendStream Entertainment who are working with youth in neighborhoods across Boston to create poignant personal narratives through poetry and spoken word performance, music, dance, and video. Young people earn $13.50 an hour for their work.
“I’ve been so impressed and inspired by the work of the young people we’ve had the privilege of working alongside,” says Dakohai Matityahu, a TrendStream spoken word artist who’s also serving as YouthSpeak Project Manager. “Medicine Wheel (SPOKE’s predecessor) helped me find my creative voice as a teen. Now in my role as a teacher I can help create spaces where a new generation is seen, heard, and valued for the gifts they bring.”
What began as a youth employment opportunity for 2021 has been transformed into an after-school program for the 2021-2022 school year, with programming focused on sharing the voices of young people living in public housing in Boston. Over the course of seven weeks under the guidance of ten skilled artists, youth aged 15 to 18 use digital storytelling to portray their stories. YouthSpeak was founded based on SPOKE’s long history of activating art and story to help young people discover their authentic voice and amplify it in their communities.
YouthSpeak’s curriculum includes 10-15 classroom hours and 5 fieldwork hours, with 50-100 students under the direction of our cohort of creatives working in a range of artistic disciplines. The youth are presented with an array of digital storytelling options, encompassing video, photo essays, spoken word, music, or a hybrid/multimedia. Their individual experiences with digital media will also inform their work, employing it in conjunction with newly learned skills to create art that reflects themselves, their families, and their communities. All classes are held virtually in accordance with protocols from the CDC and the City of Boston.
This program was made possible thanks to the City of Boston and the Boston Housing Authority’s generous support, also as a part of SPOKE’s longer-term partnership with the BHA. This important partnership is manifested in the project New Art in Old Colony, a creative placemaking initiative taking place alongside the redevelopment of South Boston’s Old Colony neighborhood led by Beacon Communities Inc. In April 2021, SPOKE announced this project with the intention to activate Old Colony with community-driven public art over the next two years, utilizing help from two exceptional Latinx artists Allison Maria Rodriguez and Franklin Marval.