“When did you discover you are African?” This is the question, mounted high on the lobby wall of the Museum of African Diaspora —MoAD — that greets visitors as they walk through the front doors.
“Everything started in Africa,” stated Director of Education Lovisa V. Brown. “Origin, movement, transformation, and adaptation — these stories aren’t told too often, you know, in terms in of the diaspora and in terms of the contributions of people from Africa,” she continued. “You know we see it, but we don’t necessarily talk about it or we just don’t necessarily make those connections or see the threads that go through. Here at MoAD, we have an opportunity to really help people see the connections to the Diaspora.”
MoAD — with the purpose of educating communities on the history, art and the cultural richness that resulted from the dispersal of Africans throughout the world — largely reaches out to its surrounding community by offering a variety of educational programs. One program in particular is the MoAD Youth Media Program — MYMP.
As Education Manager Itoro Udofia clarified, “The MoAD Youth Media Program is a program that is offered to teens coming from the San Francisco Bay Area that are from under-resourced communities. What we do is we offer them media training, job-readiness training, and leadership training as well,” she continued. “It’s a place for them to come and gain those skills.”
MYMP actively partners with the Bay Area Video Coalition — BAVC, the Academy of Art University, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The program hopes to gain even more partnerships in the future.
These partnerships often provide a means through which the students are allowed interactive learning. “The students are taught through partnerships,” acknowledged Udofia. “We’re partnered with BAVC,” she said, and through them the students “have gained skills in editing footage and using Adobe Suite.”
One of the students, Cynthia Wu, noted, “Before, I was very bad at video editing, and I’ve gotten a lot better. That’s something very valuable that I learned.”
One of the more recent projects the students have developed is their MoAD Youth Media Program Blog. Through the site, they document their experiences through writing, audio, picture and video. The students also maintain regular pages — also accessible through the blog — with Weekly Updates, Community Page, Scholarly Voices, and MYMP News.
Launched by the students themselves, MYMP News interviews the guest artists that come to work with the program. Each interview begins with the question, “What was your favorite dish as a child?” — provoking a fond smile from the artist.
The majority of the program’s training takes place at the museum. During the fall, students meet on the weekends and acquire 20 hours per month. In the summer, students meet four days a week, totaling 16 hours each week.
Still fairly new, the program was initially created by Demetrie Broxton in 2009. Funded by grants from the Kimball Foundation, AT&T, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and by individual donations, MYMP has progressed through three different years, or ‘stages’ as referred by Brown.
“The first stage there was about seven students, and then the second stage we increased to 14. Now we’re at ten, and they’re very active in the program,” Brown recounted. Students are accepted into the program through an intense interview process.
“We go through schools. A lot of our teens already active in the program recruit. We speak with counselors,” Udofia stated.
Prospective students must submit personal writings, a letter of interest, two reference letters from teachers or counselors, and they must maintain a minimum 3.0 grade point average — GPA. At the actual interview, students are often asked to demonstrate conflict resolution or discuss how they identify themselves with the African race.
“We’re looking for students who are good in school. We’re looking for leadership potential. We’re looking for students who have job readiness and who are cultured, who are culturally sensitive and aware of who they are,” Brown described.
Not all of the students are African American. Some participants are Asian or Hispanic. Some are African American and Pilipino, and one is directly from Nigeria. “I think that’s a real bonus for the program, as well,” Brown stated.
Udofia added, “With the question of ‘When did I discover I was African?’— they really grapple with that. So it’s nice to see.”
On the MYMP blog, the students are providing their own answers to “When did I discover I was African?” Calling it a “work in progress,” they have begun to write, film, and edit their responses.
Chelsea Lyons, one of the students, declared her answer at the end of her video, “The day I discovered I was African was the day I discovered I was me.”
This year’s current students are: Derron Sims, Chelsea Lyons, Fanny Yang, Cynthia Wu, Carol Wu, Olivia Ayanruoh, Malachi Segers, Kevin Stevens, and Norma Albarran. Five of the participating students will be graduating this year, and MYMP hosted a ceremony in their honor on May 19 at MoAD, located at 685 Mission St. The media program at MoAD currently accepts donations to aid in student training, and those interested in donating can contact Udofia email@example.com. General information about MoAd can be found on their website, www.moadsf.org/.