Contrary to what you may have heard or read, there is hope among young Black males, and that hope was more than palpable last Thursday during the New Media Academy celebration at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. The event was the culmination of six months of intense examination of the way media and culture impacts the lives of youth and how to become media savvy.

Jasiri X and Paradise Gray of 1Hood, founders of the academy, say that in addition to developing critical thinking skills, other goals include teaching the young men how to create, market, and shape world perception of themselves. The participating youth will be taken through the process of cultivating their voice via various forms of media. The academy was funded through a grant from the Heinz Endowment.

The specific focus, though not limited to, is to educate the participant in the nuances of the culture of today’s media, as well as, to enhance their focus on education and personal accountability in today’s world.  “This alternative education program serves a dual purpose of equipping the communities youth with the proper tools for self-expression as well as occupying their time with positive influences with a specific goal oriented agendas,” Jasiri X said.

The young men met twice a week after school at the August Wilson Center where each student had access to laptop computers for research and editing their work. Their field work included  observing professional Black journalists at work during the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop, a trip to the Andy Warhol Museum and the Occupy Pittsburgh encampment.

A number of current events during the course of the academy presented opportunities to students to discuss mainstream media coverage as well as have a hand in producing videos now available on YouTube including “I Am Troy Davis (T.R.O.Y.)” and video commentary on Jordan Miles.

The culminating event at the AWC was more commencement than graduation as the six young men (ranging from 14 to 18) who completed the program shared their thoughts on what they’ve learned.

“We have to create new media to change the image,” said Romie Yates of Wilkinsburg. “We’re not that stereotype. We have to stop feeding into that stereotype. We have to make music that is not disrespectful to women and to ourselves.”

Hakim George, a student at Pittsburgh Science and Technology said, “We should not have to announce our movements in advance if we have an encounter with the police.”

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