By Rachel Rhoades

The Youth Artists for Justice program has just completed its third week at Young People’s Theatre. After learning about many strategies and principles of current and past social movements, the youth decided to focus on intersectionality and solidarity for their final performance. They are currently in the stage of interviewing community members to strengthen their understanding of the myriad social topics they are interrogating in their scenes. We practiced developed interview questions and rehearsed interviews skills in our last session.

One group has decided to create a court scene representing the complexities of racial prejudice, rape culture and criminal (in)justice. Another group is critiquing the deforestation industry. The third group is looking at bullying, xenophobia and sexism in school. The final group is working on a scene that deals with the confluence of community organizers committed to Indigenous rights, Black Lives Matter, anti-Islamophobia and educational equity. In the coming weeks, the group will put together their opening piece, which introduces these issues as they impact youth in the world today. Below is an excerpt of the group poem, written by youth artist Minhaj:

Know me?
You know nothing about me
About my struggle, my beliefs, what I’ve been though
About how I afford to eat
About how I struggle to live
How everyone thinks my only source of money comes from dealing drugs
About how you think I always up to no good
You think my father’s only home is jail
Based on the color of my skin
You think darkness is my only friend

We have played with tableau and improvisation, developing characters for the scenes based on topics the youth identified as urgent in our communities today.

Catherine, Mohamed and Baale create a tableau in the Change the Image activity; Youth Artists for Justice program at YPT.

Catherine, Mohamed and Baale create a tableau during a “Change the Image” activity; Youth Artists for Justice program at YPT.

In the coming weeks, we will be working with transcripts of the interviews they are currently conducting with a variety of informants, from a school principal to an Indigenous elder, a Black Lives Matter organizer to a mosque leader. The youth are eager to continue enriching their scenes as they learn more about the challenges, ideals and personal anecdotes from one-on-one in-depth interviews. More to come soon! Also, keep an eye out for the upcoming call for papers for the Intersections, Imaginaries & Resistance: Emerging Drama Education Scholars & Practitioners Conference…

[Youth Artists for Justice is a 15-week program that combines performing arts and community activism with youth participants at both Young People’s Theatre and the Teen Leadership Council in Boston. In this hybrid/online community-based action research project, youth at each site will have the chance to collaborate in creating original artistic work and critiquing barriers to social justice.]