Shifting Urban Narratives: Youth Civic Engagement and America's Future

This project will engage youth to chart the future of America through multimedia narratives. Showcasing the work of young change-makers in Detroit, especially during the pandemic, it harnesses the power of storytelling, while aiming to inspire leadership and resilience, educating others about responsible citizenship, and uncovering various pathways of economic success and socio-cultural advancement in urban ecologies.

Detroit has faced myriad economic, social, and political challenges, which have negatively impacted communities that are already marginalized and under-resourced. Yet there are those who have stayed and persisted to sustain life and community. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on Detroit, and has disproportionately affected racialized minority and low-income families. While many in the general public have come to see Detroit as a case of a failing inner city, there is much more to learn from individuals and collectives who are beating the odds and carving out opportunities for community development, empowerment, and entrepreneurship. Lessons learned from Detroit can build capacity and replicate successful models in other places.

The project is collaborating with diverse youth fellows between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, who are passionate about uncovering and telling "other" narratives of Detroit. Using videos and photographs as platforms for storytelling, they have been documenting the experiences and perspectives of various individuals, families, and groups, highlighting the city's vitality, ingenuity, and resourcefulness. They are supported by a team of educators/researchers and consultants who provide creative and technical training, so they can actualize their visions and viewpoints.

Forthcoming in Fall 2021 will be the public premiere of a collective film and photo exhibition, co-curated with the project's youth fellows. They will feature stories about urban farming and food security, immigrant entrepreneurs, immigrant families creating home, trauma and resilience, feelings of pride and shame, navigating the city as an insider and outsider, young women of color, Black queer lives, as well as urban arts and cultural workers.

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