SHAKE! Youth Art and Activism – My Thought on the 3 R’s

I have been working on this incredible youth project for the last four years. Shake! is Platform London’s youth initiative which happen twice a year as a February school’s half-term and August Summer holidays intensive course. They take 6 months to devise with themes I would have been frightened of as teenager, more concerned with fashion and hair and whether I was going to make enough money at my holiday job to get the freshest garms to rock on my  return to college.

THIS type of project (post UK Summer insurrections 2011) is more important than ever and from 17th-21st February, I was again immersed in the politically inquisitive and emotional world of 16 young people who believe they can change the world with the poetic word and film.The process of devising this particular Shake course was perhaps the most befuddling because the themes were MASSIVE – Remembering, Re-Imagining and Reparations.
I wrote a blog about it and writing it was crucial to my process of grounding me in the themes for this year. I needn’t have fretted. The Young People delivered, as usual.

Here is the blog post.

Zena’s Thoughts on the Three R’s- Remembering, Re-imagining, Reparations

This will be my fourth time as a Shake! facilitator and the third time as  core team intensive 5-day course deviser.Shake! 1: The pilot “Arts Race and Power” course honoured the lives of aspiring architect and London youth Stephen Lawrence, and the eco-activist and Nigerian Ogoni Tribesman writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and used their stories as case studies to interrogate the themes

Shake! 2 – The “Voice Verse Power” course analysed media representation, political definitions of race and power to estabilish, validate and give a platform for the voice of the marginalised and stigmatised.Shake! 3: focused on the themes of and “Power, Perceptions, Propaganda”.Now we’re going in deep – Remembering, Re-imagining, Reparations. This the title of the next course and it is going to be one of our most challenging courses to devise for the themes are so broad, complex and could potentially take us down a worm hole of new age theory and idealistic visions of Utopia. What we are going to endeavour to do is imagine a world where equality is a reality, where the redistribution of wealth is just and sustainable, where the generations and races are working together to ensure the human rights of every child is acknowledged and honoured into their old age.  WHAT could or will this world look like and WHERE TO BEGIN?
Since coming on board there has been clear trajectory for the content of this course.
We begin with the Story.
“He who owns the story owns the minds of the people.” Shake’s ‘Power, Perceptions and Propaganda’ course unpacked this concept last year and our next course will show how the story can be put to good use in restoring equality where it has suffered.Remembering 
When we focus our thoughts on the past, we begin to see the effects of catalytic events and patterns of behaviour from colonialism, for example, are apparent. We can begin to see where societal attitudes have become so politically racialised, genderised and physical ability focused toward prejudice.To undo damage done by these attitudes, we mustn’t be afraid to remember and reflect. Brazilian activist and writer Paulo Freire speaks often of dehumanization and objectification of the human being to serve the purposes of profit over people. It is by reflecting, remember the past that we can reconnect with hidden stories that have empowered communities and nations. When we are enlightened to and by these stories we begin to see patterns along the timeline of the world story – stories where people overcame oppression and hardship.
To re-imagine is to tap into the creative, innovative and exploratory nature of our abilities. We must imaginatively intercepted those stories that birth such unequal societies we find ourselves living in now. We do this by reflecting on the past and imagining what it must have BEEN like, and consider what it can BE like if some of the cataclysmic event in world history had not happened. This is the tough part. And the most exciting. There is a certain fearless in imagining to be done, regardless of how farfetched from the ”norm” we know and understand today.And there will be trial and error. Eddison, the inventor who is credited a for the first light bulb, said after his 10,000th or so attempt said, “ I found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb.” But what else did he discover along the way? Our journey is bound to reveal other useful tools for positive change along the quest.
An online dictionary definition of Reparations is :” the action of making amends for a wrong one has done, by providing payment or other assistance to those who have been wronged.Reparation in its traditional sense has always been considered financial handouts. But reparation is also about replacing old power systems that oppress, limit and injure lives, communities and nations. There are loads of policy and economic remedies for various levels of political office and government that address this but how does the everyday woman, man, young person or child feel like they are working toward some kind of positive change? What can us as individuals on a grassroots level do to combat corporate and local erosion of eco-systems on this generous planet we inhabit and dismantling the kinship between all human beings?There is a huge national and global network of grassroots energy exercising purposeful and local activism, challenging the existing status quo and world order. You have local campaigning groups and organisation fighting for the rights of residents There are elders and youth initiatives, cultural programmes. There are independent popular education curriculums, community gardens inspired by residents selling fruit and veg produce to their local shops, art projects (like Shake!) working for social cohesion working independently and going in to schools. These are stories we virtually never see in national press.
When another story of disaster or austerity hits the news,  and although these are very real events, I always quote the statement made famous by the Hip Hop troupe Public Enemy, “Don’t believe the hype!” – that negative hype that there is nothing you can do about this. By believing in the positive activist network, working hard to reconfigure the present world order for a sustainable equal one, we can make in-roads to a better future, just by believing positive things are happening.

Shake! as a concept is itself evolving
, developing deeper roots and forging a foundation for groups of young and maturer minds to work together to add to the positive story, as are all the young film-makers and poets who take part.  We’ve had  some of the past Shake! participants deliver a training day to professional facilitators and educators just recently as we endeavour to fulfill the Shake mission statement for its inter-generational work. Power sharing. Is this a microcosm of a new future – the generations educating together in a mutual exchange of understanding about the world we live in seen through each other eyes?

The next intensive course will be full discussions and creative exercises using the mediums of film and poetry/spoken word to the limit to interrogate with our imagination. This way the act of creating becomes a mode of reparation.
We will pull no punches in terms of being grounded and real about the world we live in today, the crises it endures and how the resilience of the human spirit negotiates its way into another century of progress and evolution.  By placing reflections of the past and mind-maps of thoughts for a sustainable future side by side, we are able to see the gaps in the many important world stories by making the global local. And in the process, make them human. “It is harder to hurt another when you know their story.”

Its gonna be real. Looking forward to it. Zena.”

Visit the Voices That Shake Blog.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. animalizard says:

    I would literally love to see you perform while in London- do you have anything scheduled over the next coming week or so?

    1. Zena says:

      Hi! Thank so much for your comment.

      Unfortunately, I’m in project developer mode and don’t really have any gigs booked for the next 3 weeks, and the its an out of London performance. But I will be updating my blog when the gigs come in.

      Thanks again for your support

      1. animalizard says:

        Wonderful, good luck with everything 🙂

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