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ART OF ME the Next Generation of Storytellers DECEMBER 2020

EMERGING YOUNG WRITERS Get to know ten teen writers who share their unique perspectives







The Next

Art of Me Team

A poem by Edgar Hoyle

Generation of


Storytellers 3   A NOTE FROM OUR DIRECTORS 6     POWER & COMMUNITY PODCAST 9   A Hidden Secret A short story on seeking help from abuse 23     Creative Advice Column Inspiration from the real life experiences of creative professionals 29    Justice is Not Colorblind A short story on racial justice 30    Repercussions of Mental A short story on escaping a terrifying sitiuation 33   Thank You Note to Educators by Creative Director Cecilia Mejia 35    Art of Me Production Crew 36    Ways to Support Art of ME

14   10 Young Emerging Writers Get to know ten young writers who share their unique stories. ART OF ME | 2 



Stephanie Wahome-Lassiter

Hello Art of Me Family, We are finally stepping into 2021 and it’s time to get excited. We are walking into a fresh start. The flowers are glowing, the sun is still shining and people are starting to do the one thing they can do. Pick something to be angry about and work towards making it better for everyone. This past year has been rocky but the surge of “this needs to change” energy is inspiring us to create, organize and take action. Throughout history, when people get angry, change happens. We are at that historic moment again as we see our humanity and quality of life for all being challenged. As we are being challenged our young people are using the power of writing to share different perspectives on relationships, education, family and community. Their perspectives are the starting point towards change. Let’s welcome the new generation of storytellers who are helping us to see what the future should look like. They have been intentionally born in their generation to help push our world to the next level. 2021, your time is now let’s roll out the red carpet for our next generation of storytellers who will propel humanity forward. ART OF ME | 3



Cecilia R. Mejia

We created this organization three years ago with this idea that we would focus more on listening to students and responding to their needs with intent. This is why we gave students the opportunity to name our organization and how we ended up with the name Art of Me. Students asked that we focus on them as individuals. We have been committed to that ever since. The publication was created to give students the space to express themselves creatively through the art of storytelling via short stories, essays, poems, drawings, and so much more. We’re also here to connect you all through your art. To educators: We are here to support your work. We want to hear from you on how to best do that. To students: We hear the word amplify a lot these days especially when it comes to the voices of young people. Yes, we want to amplify your voices. But we want to do much more than that. We are here to listen. We are here to understand. We are here to guide you because we’ve been there, we understand. We’ve done the work, and we’ll continue to do so. We want to pass the mic on to you when you are ready. When we say ready, what we mean is this. You have a story to tell, we got you. You still don’t know what your story is, we got you. You got something to say but need support, we got you. But in between all of that we want you to learn how to hold your own. The clearer your voice gets, the stronger you are within, the more the more impactful the art inside of you becomes. History has shown us that Art has the ability to change the culture, and we need that now more than ever. The world is a little bit chaotic at the moment, but we know that you can change the narrative. You are the next generation of storytellers. We see hope in so many of you that we’re privileged to encounter every day through our work. ART OF ME | 4


The What:

The Art of Me publication is a creative platform for young people to express themselves, unfiltered, and to constructively reflect on issues affecting them.

The How:

We support young people in identifying their voice through various forms of art (storytelling, filmmaking, photography, music, etc‌).

The Changemakers:

Follow us as this platform marks the beginning of our journey as we collaboratively identify resources to find the space and place to create positive social change.

To find out more about our work, programs, and film competition please visit www.artofme.org. To contact us about the publication please email us info@artofme.og ART

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"POWER & COMMUNITY" PODCAST The Power & Community Podcast brought to you by Art of Me was created in the hopes of giving youth a positive platform to identify issues and collectively create solutions to encourage mental, emotional, physical health and safety.

Meet your host: Aviva Pusey You can access the podcast at www.buzzsprout.com/1246214 or on most major streaming services,

Aviva is a creative activist and community worker born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She founded the Collective (www.collective.casa) in March of 2019. Collective is an online magazine and community working towards guiding empathy through creativity. In the fall Aviva will be attending Hampshire College to study things from history, photography and political science. She has a deep passion for the study of culture, and loves to travel and be embedded in the amazing communities this world has to offer. Her main exploration is in the meaning of empathy, and its power to create peaceful, united and collective change. She hopes to one day create a tool for people all over the world to explore empathy and build peaceful relationships around it within their own communities. ART OF ME |Â 6

AVIVA'S REFLECTIONS EPISODE TWO: HOW DO I RECHARGE? Recharging is an instant and often invisible act. As humans we are constantly evolving and learning from our experiences. This beauty of humanity is often ignored, as exhaustion takes over. As young people especially we are often saddened by a world we feel we have no control over. For reasons like this and beyond every once and awhile we need a personal boost. This could be one to restore hope, or purpose, sometimes simply energy. But often as we evolve with the rest of society we need a moment to recharge. With this latest podcast, I had the privilege to talk to Jullianna Greenidge not only about her film, the Unstoppable, and her connection to Art of Me. But also to dig into her creative process and how her ability to create serves as a device for recharging. In her film, Jullianna reflects on her experiences with bullying and anxiety. Throughout the film there are so many moments of relatability as mental health is something we all have to face. She discussed some of her steps for creating and how overall they allow her the ability to escape parts of her reality. Now, besides writing being an honest and exclusive space for her thoughts, she still knows her journey of growth is yet to come. Talking to Jullianna opened my mind to a lot of things. The main thing for me which I think should be focused is this idea of honesty. A lot of what Julliana and the Unstoppable embodies is facing the things that scare you. Her desire for self reflection is something I think allows her to recharge. To look at a time and situation, take a step back and evaluate. That is how humans are unknowingly evolving. With each action their character is shifting. Whether it's a good or bad shift is a reflection of an individual's surrounding. In other words, community. And that is just it, Jullianna’s literature was her community. The connections that were possible with her writing this film show literature's power to recharge. Art of Me provided a space where she could lead a community of creatives, giving her the power of unity. Especially having been a part of the film's process, seeing behind the scenes I was able to see Jullianna recharging. The freedom and empowerment she felt from this community is what I think really changed her. I am glad I had the opportunity to explore this with her, and in turn ask myself the question: How do I recharge?


"Egress" A Poem By Edgar Hoyle Fridged leather reworks itself to the liberating warmth of a ivory egressed ebony temple The heart beats with the warmth of stillness of a controlled fire While they hands can only get burnt by its greatest desire But with this touch the perception cascades into a place the mind can’t maintain As lavender mixes with a morsel of herb The tongue samples chocolate and honey While the eyes are fixed with a gaze of nirvana Rays of passion hypnotize the soul transfixed within the vibration of another’s voice Peacefully submerged by the river of thought Saved by the isolation of a flower’s ego


"A Hidden Secret" A Short Story by Nicole Baltazar Content warning: Physical and sexual abuse and self-harm.

I looked up at my mom who was yelling at my dad. This was the first time I heard my mom scream at him, she had tears rolling down her cheeks. This all happened when I was just 5 years old, I could barely read words at that time but I could clearly read my parents. I knew all the things that made them angry and I knew to avoid upsetting them because they would get violent, I also knew how to stop my mom’s tears. My dad was abusive towards my mom, both physically and mentally because he thought she was cheating on him. He wouldn't let my mom go out, because he thought she would run off with another man. One day when my mom came home he started to hit her because she didn't tell him where she was going, but all she had done was go to the supermarket and buy food that she could bring back to cook for us. My mom was angry. She wasn't going to let him hit her again so she started to fight back throwing insults, punches, kicks and any items she could get her hands on at my father while telling him to leave and not to come back. Of Course, my father had to have the last word so on his way out he shouted back to her that he would take her to court and have me removed from my mom’s custody. Luckily the judge ruled in my mom’s favor and she got full custody of me, although the exception was that I still needed to visit my dad over the weekends. My name is Rose Silver and now I am five years old and my visits to my dad's house are still happening. He picks me up from my house in Brooklyn where both he and my mom would both try to coexist for the minute that they would see each other, then we would walk to the train station to take the Q to Queens. When we got to the house, I would go straight to the couch to watch TV and the Powerpuff Girls were on. One time as I was watching tv I felt my dad staring at me and when I looked up at my dad he was starting to come closer to me, he started to touch me on my thigh and wouldn’t stop even though I felt uncomfortable. He stopped when my stepmom came into the room. So I would stay close to her because when she was around he wouldn't do things to me. When it was time for my dad to take me back home he told me he would hurt my mom if I told anyone. It took me a few weeks to finally get the courage to tell my mom what happened and she didn't believe me when I first told her because she thought I was making up these things because I was only five at that time. She then realized that I was telling the truth by how I was acting. I kept screaming and crying running to my room when she told me that I needed to go to my dad’s house, she was angry that my biological dad would do that to me. She went to court again telling them what he did to me hoping that they wouldn’t keep forcing me to continue to visit my dad. But they didn't believe her because she didn't have any evidence and they also don't believe what a five-year-old girl says. ART OF ME | 9

"A Hidden Secret" The judge's decision was for me to keep seeing my dad. They said there would be supervised visits where they would come to the house and check on me randomly. Also they said that my stepmom would need to stay with me all the time and not let him be alone with me. But my stepmom didn’t believe me either and left me alone with him often. In 2009 when I was ten my stepmother left me alone with my dad upstairs in my room and he started to touch me and even tried to rape me. I wanted to yell for my stepmom to come and stop this, but he threatened me and said that he would kill my mom and my sisters if I ever said anything. My visits with my dad stopped when I started to go to high school. He didn't want to see me anymore because he was worried that I would say something, now that I was old enough to not be afraid of him. Sometimes he would just text me that I should go over to his house after school but I would just ignore him. I knew what was going to happen if I went there. I didn't tell my mom anything because I remembered what he told me what would happen if I spoke. Which was that he was going to kill my sisters and my mom so I kept everything inside and didn't say a word to anybody. I have all this pain in me which made me feel alone. After seeing missed calls and texts from my dad I felt bad because I was ignoring him and not hearing what he had to say. I went to go see him, but he didn't change, he just wanted to abuse me again. I went running out of the house with pain taking over my body. When I got home I went straight to my room under my covers. It was pitch black I felt alone. I couldn't trust anyone thinking they would just use me like how my dad did. The next morning I didn't even want to get up to go to school after knowing what my dad did to me and how he doesn't treat me like his daughter. I started slacking off in school, always waking up depressed being in my world feeling tired, losing interest and not hungry. When I got to school my boyfriend was waiting for me. He knew something was wrong and he asked me if I was okay. I didn't want to tell him what had happened to me because he wouldn't believe me. After school finished for the year I didn't want to see anyone. I told my boyfriend I had something to do at home which wasn't true. I just wanted to be alone. I got to my room and lay on my bed; my face buried in my pillow where tears were sticking to it wetting the whole pillow. I hated my dad for everything he did to me. I just wanted to have a dad that loved me like his daughter and always be there to protect me. I went into the bathroom. Where I looked at myself in the mirror. I hated myself because he did that to me, I felt like I was the reason this all happened to me.


"A Hidden Secret" Maybe I could have stopped it. I went back to my room. I saw a sharp razor on the desk. Where I had used it to open a box. In my head I was saying I should do it since no one is here. This can take away my pain. I won't do it deeply, it will just be a little cut. I started to put the razor against my wrist and started to slide it across. The red thick watery blood started to come out rolling down my arm. I felt the pain that I had caused when I was cutting, feeling the pain of my cuts made me not think about the past. A week has passed since I started cutting. I locked the door of my room so no one could come in while I was cutting, I started to cut my thighs instead of my arms because I didn't want my mom to find out. I made sure my mom wouldn't find out by pretending to be another person around her. I loved my mom. I didn't want her to see me like this. I also didn't want her to go through these things with me because it would be a waste of her time. My mom came into my room just to check up on me and ask how I am. We had a long conversation about my grades being low and how my dad has been calling her telling her to tell me to go visit him that he misses me. My eyes were starting to get watery. I was holding back my tears by biting my lip. I could see my sisters hiding behind the door trying to hear our conversation. My mom then saw and closed the door. “What's wrong. Did something happen between you and your dad. I can see it in your eyes? You can always tell me anything.” “No. I'm tired, can you just leave my room.” After my mom left I took the blade and pressed it on my skin. I started to cut again not knowing what to do, having mixed feelings if I should tell my mom. My cuts started to bleed more. Dropping down my wrist to my bedroom floor. It wouldn't stop bleeding this time, I was so terrified that I had to tell my mom I told her I couldn't take it anymore and that I need help. My mom was in shock she didn't know how to react. She was upset because I didn't tell her before. “What. Why didn't you tell me, when did you start doing this? Why don't you trust me?" My mom asked. “I didn't tell you because you had a lot of things to do, I didn’t want you to be in this with me.” “Let's go to the doctor so we can talk about it later.”



"A Hidden Secret" We entered a bright room where we needed to wait for the doctor. My heart was beating fast. I couldn't control it. The doctor assigned me to a therapist who I needed to meet once a week. I don't need a therapist. I'm not crazy, I said to myself. I was in therapy for two months. When I went to therapy it didn't help me overcome what had happened before, it made me think about it more. I wanted to find a way that would take away this feeling of being depressed. The only way was to cut again, so I did. A few weeks after my therapy ended I started wearing a long sleeve shirt so my mom wouldn't see my cuts. But when I was reaching for something on the table my sleeve lifted a little bit. She grabbed my wrist to see if these cuts were fresh and they were. She started to shout and cry saying if I liked seeing her like that because I kept on cutting and I wasn't even trying to recover or overcome this pain by talking to somebody. I started to cry. I went running to my room and lay on my bed. I couldn't stop crying as my tears were running. I closed my eyes, not wanting to think about what my mom had said. My mom was always there for me. I didn't want to let her or my sisters down. My mom entered my room saying that tomorrow after school we will go to therapy. “Instead of you going to therapy alone I will go with you and if you want I can go inside.” My mom was the only person who would understand me and help me overcome this pain. “It will take some time for me to overcome and not think about cutting but I want you to be there with me to hear my side of what happened.” Later that day we got home my sisters asked where I was and I told them the truth about what had happened to me because I wanted to let them know there will always be somebody there by your side.

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The Next Generation of Storytellers features TEN emerging teen writers and creatives. They have worked with Art of Me to expand their creative horizons and boost their stories.

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We asked them to give us a little bit of insight on their background, process, future work, and how they have found comfort during these uncertain and unstable times. You can read their stories at artofme.org


Sifa Kizombo

Age 18 Pronouns she/her/hers School Facing History New Tech Where she is from Burundi Bujumbura What drew her to writing "I was interested to get my story out." What she was reflecting on when she wrote her story "Community and culture" What she wants readers to get from her story "Not to forget where they came from and continue embracing the culture." What she gets from writing "Gaining more experience"



Her action step- how how can you, me, other young people, adults, and your community do better "My action steps is to talk to more people to get involve in the community activities and learn more about their culture." What she is reflecting on now "My reflection now is looking back to what I have learned and applied to everything that I do to help young people." A quote that inspires her "Hard work pays down in the road."


Emily François Age 19 Pronouns she/her/hers School Brooklyn Collaborative Studies Where she is from Brooklyn, NY What drew her to writing "The want to share stories that aren’t out there or are few and far in between." What she was reflecting on when she wrote her story "How it’s become a taboo to talk about certain subjects on the darker side but yet those are the subjects that need to be talked about." What she wants readers to get from her story "Not everything is as it seems. Some stories don’t have happy endings but that doesn’t mean they’re less important. If you care about a person, find out their story so they aren’t alone. Company can do wonders." What she gets from writing "Happiness and peace." 15


Her action step- how how can you, me, other young people, adults, and your community do better "Don’t shy away from topics like mental health. It’s just as important as physical things. Stay informed and if you have someone in your life who struggles with a mental illness, work with them. Do your best to be there for them because you may be what helps them get through the day. If you yourself struggle, hang in there—you’re stronger than you know." What she is reflecting on now "Stories that need to be told are neither all tragic nor all happy. We need to hear both." How she finds comfort during unstable and uncertain times "Mainly in writing, music, and nature—in particular, flowers. All of those speak to me and comfort me." A quote that inspires her "As a writer you try to listen to what other's aren't saying...and write about the silence.” - N. R. Hart


Breanna Wignal Age 17 Pronouns she/her/hers Astrological sign Capricorn School Brooklyn Collaborative Studies Where she is from Born in Jamaica What drew her to writing "I’ve always been interested in writing, reading books inspired me to write things of my own." What she was reflecting on when she wrote her story "Fragments of my own life." What she wants readers to get from her story "For them to simply enjoy it!" What she gets from writing "I’m able to express feelings of my own in which I tend to bury" Her action step- how how can you, me, other young people, adults, and your community do better "We should try to better understand an individual before we make basic assumptions"



What she is reflecting on now "My high school experience" How she finds comfort during unstable and uncertain times "Listening to music and writing" What she is working on now "I’m currently working on my college essay." A quote that inspires her "Life is what you make it"

Carmen Callahan

Art of Me Team Reflections Learn about the team members that make Art of Me possible

Carmen Callahan is a student filmmaker born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She is currently a Writing/Producing major at Cleveland State University’s School of Film and Media Arts with an Associate of Arts from Cuyahoga Community College - Metro Campus. Her pieces center on black women taking control of their own narratives, and creating spaces of self love and acceptance.

"In the short time that I’ve been a part of Art of Me, I’ve learned about the importance of community engagement. As a film student, much of my time is spent organizing a shoot and running the set, with minimal film distribution experience. Now I’m learning how to filter through festival submissions and advocate for myself as a creative professional, while advising the next generation of creatives to do the same."

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Chanda Bynum

Art of Me Team Reflections

Chanda Bynum is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and has been writing short stories since the age of ten. Introduced to spoken word and playwriting in high school, she has always felt compelled to tell her personal story and the stories of other people around her. Chanda desires to not only direct movies but also to write and produce a television series on a popular television network. Currently, she is interested in serving others by telling their personal stories through unique perspectives and visuals to inspire diverse readership and viewership and bring people from all different backgrounds together.

Working with the youth in Art of Me reminds me of being a youth myself. Someone taking an interest in my writing shaped me into the writer I am today. Someone reading my work and telling me it was important helped me to grow in confidence and develop a voice that I didn't know mattered. As a writer for Art of Me, I enjoy assisting young people in creating their own stories and voices as they prepare to find their place and purpose in this world. Writing has and will continue to start movements and change perspectives. In a world that tells young people what they can't do, I enjoy empowering young people in what they CAN do. Art of Me allows me to do just that. ART OF ME |Â 18

Art of Me Team Reflections

Mary Rose McClain

Mary Rose McClain is a creative intern at Art of Me. She graduated from New York University at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration “Representation in the Visual Arts� and a minor in French Studies. She loves watching films, going to museums, and cooking/baking. Mary Rose is particularly interested in how the visual arts can be a tool of learning.

Working with Art of Me reminds me of our collective uniqueness and the importance of thinking outside typical narratives. I value the platform of collaboration with the students in encouraging and cultivating their experimental thoughts. As I engage with their work, I feel inspired to push my own creative boundaries in order to refute structures of domination and exploitation. ART OF ME |



Jeinise Castro What she wants readers to get from her story "Healing is a process, you’re not gonna wake up and everything will be alright. You have to work towards it." What she gets from writing "A sense of joy, being able to create stories that may resonate with people and provide them with comfort."

Age 18 Pronouns she/her/hers Astrological sign Virgo School University at Albany Where she is from Brooklyn, NY What drew her to writing "I have always enjoyed reading and soon began to make up my own stories." What she was reflecting on when she wrote her story "I was reflecting on my own life along with some stories I had already read."

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Her action step- how how can you, me, other young people, adults, and your community do better "People make mistakes, even if they are terrible, try to forgive. Forgiveness allows you to continue healing." What she is reflecting on now "The pandemic and how this whole process as changed my views and perspective on life." How she finds comfort during unstable and uncertain times "Reading" What she is working on now "Currently in the process of finishing the script for the short film based on my story." A quote that inspires her "“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” - Oscar Wilde"


Makaila Brown What she gets from writing "What I get is basically I feel more relieved, happy, and I feel accomplished."

Age 17 Pronouns she/her/hers Astrological sign Taurus School Facing History New Tech Where she is from Cleveland, OH What drew her to writing "Writing became my safe place in life where I can go and be myself. Not only that relaxing myself from stress." What she was reflecting on when she wrote her story "What I was reflecting on was my progress that I made over the years. Also I thought about how I changed a lot. What she wants readers to get from her story "I want people to know that Their not the only ones that has dealt with this issue. To leave a message to kids that are bullies to stop what their doing and don't tease other people because you don't know what their going through." 21 | ART OF ME

Her action step- how how can you, me, other young people, adults, and your community do better "My action step is to get my message across and at least leave an impact on kids and adults. We can do better by educating our kids more on the dos and don'ts. Also instead of being bystanders, we will be upstanders. For action start to stick up for those that need it the most and also being careful about what you say to people. Also, don't belittle anyone for not having the materials or physical appearance as you, etc." What she is reflecting on now "I'm Reflecting on my future of going to college and to fulfill my career as a Music Therapist" How she finds comfort during unstable and uncertain times "I found comfort from my family and friends that I talk to constantly so that's my comfort." What she is working on now "Yes, I want to be really good at singing I mean I can sing but I want to do better at it like hit high notes and develop an ear." A quote that inspires her "You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it" - Valentine


Edgar Hoyle What he gets from writing "I get a safe, great, and creative outlet to express my emotions and feeling. And also a way to get whats in my head out and on a page." Age 21 Pronouns he/him/his Astrological sign Gemini School The Ohio State University Where he is from Cleveland, OH What drew him to writing "Writing is a way I can express my trauma and pain while also healing with every word. I've also lived a very interesting and unique life and I can take from real life experience to create more vivid stories. I've always been a story teller so writing makes for a great way to get my stories on page." What he was reflecting on when he wrote her story "My life, My passed Mother and My friends and past relationships" What he wants readers to get from his story "That love and unity is how things should operate and overcoming your demons is a thing we all can do! Also friendship is one of the most powerful things there are."

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His action step- how how can you, me, other young people, adults, and your community do better "Violence only breads more violence and it's not the way we should go. And how much isolation can effect a person's mindset and outview on life. Love the people you care about while they are here and while you have the opportunity. And how much love can conquer all things evil. As a community we should come together to spread peace and not war. Moving on towards the future we can find better ways to love and support one another and not bring each other down. Also that its something more to being alive and being human it's something more to life that we all should appreciate.." What he is reflecting on now "Right now I'm reflecting on my own mental health and my mental health recovery. I'm also reflecting on the world and my purpose and place in the universe as a man and as an artist." How he finds comfort during unstable and uncertain times "Meditation and hanging with friends" What she is working on now "Yes I have, I've been getting into beat making and learning how to play the piano." A quote that inspires her "The Lotus of the hidden leaf village blooms twice" Rock Lee

CREATIVE ADVICE COLUMN Find inspiration through the experiences and wisdom of creative professionals

FRANCIS CULLADO Executive Director for Visual Communications, a media arts organization that develops and supports the voices of Asian American & Pacific Islander filmmakers and media artists who empower communities and challenge perspectives.

ERNABEL DEMILLO Reporter/Host of the 7-time Emmy nominated show "Asian American Life” Contributing Reporter for “Arts in the City”, “Shades of U.S.” and “Simply Science"

"Write. Write everyday. Read. Read everyday. Before you know it the story brewing inside you - the one with the beginning, middle and end — will be screaming to be let out. And you will ready to tell it. And your audience, including me, will be ready to read it."

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"There are times when I struggle with imposter syndrome. Moments when I don’t think I am qualified or worthy to do what I do. As human beings, we’re always questioning our own value to this world. I overcome these doubts knowing that there are many people who believe in me, people who root for me. I want you to realize that people believed in you even before you started believing in yourself. Know that you are worthy, that you are qualified, and that you are simply enough." ART OF ME | 6


MIKE BERRY Filmmaker and motivational speaker. Co-founder of Skip Thomas Productions in Cleveland Ohio. Hello guys, this is Mike Berry, Writer and director. It is wonderful to hear that you are pursuing the arts, being creative and using your voice. I will tell you from experience that each of your journeys will be different and there is no right or wrong way, there is only "THE WAY". This road will be filled with laughing and crying as you discover who you are as a creative. Don't be too hard on yourself but hard enough to push past the times when you feel uninspired. Your inner voice will be your guide and listen to it always as it will tell you where you are heading. Many people will find peace in your creations so use them responsibly. at the end of your journey is your seat at the table inside of the halls of greatness. never stop learning and growing. Good luck. 24 |


Dear Teen Storytellers, My name is Kierra Harris. I am an educator, writer, and a first time author of the new children's book, Dear Ms. Rona. Throughout my time teaching and writing, I have learned every year is a new beginning and flexibility is the name of the game. Don't be afraid of obstacles you may face or bumpy roads that may come your way. Take those obstacles and turn them into inspiration. Use your creativity to reposition and reconfigure those ideas that are out of the ordinary. Furthermore, patience is key. Although you are inputting all of your time and effort into all that you are doing, understand that timing is everything. It's okay to have goals and to plan but always remember everything happens for a reason and what is meant to be will be. Remember to never sweat the little things and always put your best foot forward. Sincerely, Kierra Harris ART OF ME |Â 6


Rosemary Gramajo Age 18 Pronouns she/her/hers Astrological sign Virgo School University of Akron Where she is from Cleveland, OH What drew her to writing "Something that drew me to writing is the fact that writing has been an outlet for me! And It has also inspired me to Help other people." What she was reflecting on when she wrote her story "I was reflecting on my own personal real life story." What she wants readers to get from her story "Something I want people to get from my story is that we all have things that we go through in life and that before we jump into conclusions about peoples lives we have to read their story." What she gets from writing "I get hope from writing.

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Her action step- how how can you, me, other young people, adults, and your community do better "An action step would be to help out in your community and share your own personal story." What she is reflecting on now "Right Now I really don't know (LOL)" How she finds comfort during unstable and uncertain times "Ive found comfort actually writing! But mainly writing songs and playing piano" What she is working on now "Yes I've actually been working on new songs !!!!" A quote that inspires her "Lyrics that are generated from tears are Lyrics that inspire and help others.�


Lexington Rivera Age 18 Pronouns she/her/hers

What she gets from writing "I get freedom, and control. Things that are usually hard to get at my age during this time in the world."

Where she is from Brooklyn and Puerto Rico

Her action step- how how can you, me, other young people, adults, and your community do better "Being open, to speak to or to speak. It’s so important to have a place to speak but also to have someone to listen. As a community (the world) we need to listen to each other and actually hear what people are saying. Talk about what hurts or what doesn’t with the people you love."

What drew her to writing "I write because It’s therapeutic for me, it allows me to work through everything I feel and make it into something beautiful."

What she is reflecting on now "I’m currently reflecting on time, the way time moves and how I move with it. As I get older I’m changing and it’s never felt this wonderful."

Astrological sign Libra School Brooklyn College

What she was reflecting on when she wrote her story "I was trying to understand the basics of love and solidarity. Who I wanted to be, who I wanted to be with, and who I met along that journey. I spent a lot of time listening to loves songs and watching sunsets writing Blood Hana" What she wants readers to get from her story "I want people to know that they're not the only ones that has dealt with this issue. To leave a message to kids that are bullies to stop what they're doing and don't tease other people because you don't know what they're going through." 26 | ART OF ME

How she finds comfort during unstable and uncertain times "I love to read. Reading is the best way for me to see the world, and to escape from it simultaneously. The book im currently reading it from Stephen Kings Dark Tower series." What she is working on now "I’m currently working on another story! Which for me is super exciting because it’s been about 3 years since I wrote Blood Hana and I want to have a new love." A quote that inspires her“ You’ve got your passion, you’ve got your pride but don’t you know that only fools are satisfied” Vienna by Billy Joel


Fabian Medina Age 17 Pronouns he/him/his Astrological sign Leo School Facing History New Tech Where he is from Ohio What drew him to writing "I just wanted to have fun." What he was reflecting on when she wrote her story "If i was confident enough to wright my story." What he wants readers to get from her story "I want students to know that its okay to share their stories and share their feelings." What he gets from writing "I had a chance to see my feelings and got to understand my life a little better and express my self."

His action step- how how can you, me, other young people, adults, and your community do better "I want others to understand that we all have different backgrounds and come from different places but we are still human and must respect others." What he is reflecting on now "That I can share my story and tell it to people and i feel confident. How he finds comfort during unstable and uncertain times "I feel comfortable now to share but at first i didn't feel as comfortable when i started." A quote that inspires him "It's going to be hard but hard does not mean the impossible."

27 | ART OF ME


Julianna Greenidge **Adapted from an interview on Medium, CUNYTV, and from her personal statement on DARKumentary.com

Age 21 Pronouns she/her/hers Where she is from Brooklyn, NY What drew her to writing "Representation matters and I want future dark skin girls to know that they do indeed have a place in this industry."* What she was reflecting on when she wrote her story Her own battle with anxiety and depression What she wants readers to get from her story "If you are feeling this way there are people out there who love you and people who have your back. " What she gets from writing A way to channel more embodied forms of anxiety and depression. Liberating feelings.*

Her action step- how how can you, me, other young people, adults, and your community do better "I want my future children to live in a world where they’re not afraid of the police or being discriminated against because they’re black. I want to live in a world where I’m not afraid of the police or being discriminated against because I’m black I’m not “supposed” to have a voice, but it’s time for that to change."* What she is reflecting on now Julianna is currently working on a new project- DARKumentary- about racism and police violence. Check it out at www.darkumentaryfilm.com How she finds comfort during unstable and uncertain times "I review my goals and remind myself that I don’t have a timeline and that I’ll get there when I get there"* A quote that inspires her "When it comes to business, “No” is just the beginning of a negotiation"* ART OF ME | 28

"Justice is Not Colorblind" By Anton Woodley

I think that if black men do what they need to do we just going to keep getting killed. We need to learn how to do what we need to because people with our skin color are just getting killed left and right. It's ok to talk about MLK and all but we need to talk about the important things in life too. Like why do many people of color have to go jail for doing something simple? But it is a product of where they come from, but then when white people do similar things that we do, not that much stuff happens to them. For example, when the rich people that have the money in order to hire a good lawyer can buy their way out of trouble. They know how much time they could receive and what will happen if it isn't that serious. But it isn't that easy for people of color and they have to go to jail or put on death road because they can't just pay their way out for killing someone. We need to stop holding these signs and take action for our community and the people. In conclusion, people of color are getting killed left and right. We just need to stand up and take action!

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"Repercussions of Mental" By anonymous

CW: Sexual assault, violence The sound of screeching chairs harmonized with the ringing bell signaling the end of the school day. I left out the building quickly, considering mama said I needed to  come straight home because kids had been getting snatched in nearby neighborhoods.  That type of stuff doesn't really happen around here but I don't feel like hearing her mouth today. I made my way down the street by foot, passing "Have You Seen Me"  posters on the light poles. How could you be stupid enough to get kidnapped? Don't talk  to strangers. Don't get into cars with people you don't know. Don't give out your  personal information. Simple. I made my way into the house heading to my bed that  was calling my name. I quickly did my homework, looked over my notes and I was out.  7:30 A.M.  Beams of sunlight danced upon my eyes awakening me. I knew I was late,  because when I normally woke up the sun wasn't even up yet. In forty-five minutes !  was dressed, and ready to walk out the door. Once I locked the door I started for the  school. I was the only student on the street considering everyone was in school. A  middle aged man dressed in a black sweat suit pulled up a few houses ahead of me,  getting out to look for something in his trunk. Just as I was passing the car he grabbed  me. I began kicking and screaming as loud as I could to get anyone's attention. He  finally lost his hold on me. As I fell to the ground he stumbled back a little. When I got up to run I heard a loud crack and I fell back to the ground. The man continuously stumped  on my ankle as I cried out in agony. He picked me up and threw me roughly in the trunk. After slamming the door he got in and sped off. This was not happening.

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"Repercussions of Mental"

I've been in this truck for thirty minutes and he's been making turns like crazy. The emergency release lever swung back and forth taunting me. I could pull it and let the trunk open but he would see me, and considering my broken ankle I won't be  running anywhere anytime soon. The car came to a sudden stop. The sunlight covered  me as the trunk was opened revealing a messy backyard. My view was quickly blocked  by the man who I noticed had a gun in his hand. I didn't dare struggle, making the the process of moving me from the car to his house easy.  While the man locked the door I stood on one foot using the wall for balance. I took in my surroundings. Straight ahead was a staircase leading to a basement. To my  right was a kitchen with a wooden table and a rickety wooden chair to match. I've seen too many movies not to know I was gonna go in the basement. I turned to see what was  taking him so long and he was staring in space, almost like he was listening to  something or something had his attention. The floorboards squeaked loudly as I tried to keep myself balanced, causing him to snap out of his trance. He shot me a friendly smile as if he didn't just kidnap me. He held his hand out for me to grab, but where was | going with a broken ankle. I stared at him with a blank face. He dropped his hand and proceeded to pick me up, taking me to a room.  Hours passed as I sat in the room thinking of ways to escape, but every one included running. I didn't know how far away home was, or who I could trust. I can't give up hope though. The man came into the room with a smile on his face. Something had  to be wrong with him. He left the door open and walked off. I was not leaving this room, for all I know he could be standing next to the door frame with that gun. I couldn't keep  my balance anyway. He came rushing back in as if he never truly walked away. "They told me you'd be a tough cookie to break.” he said giggling like a child.  I gave a confused look. Somebody else was in on this? I didn't want to talk to my kidnapper, but I needed to know the situation I was in. “Who?" I asked in a quiet voice.  "They did." he said as he tapped his temple. This man needed serious help. He closed  the door and approached me. He grabbed at my shirt roughly, causing it to rip. I tried my  best to crawl back, but my ankle dragging against the bed hurt too much to bear. I  began to scream, but was cut off by him choking me. Black spots crawled all over my eyes and soon all I saw was black.

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"Repercussions of Mental"

I woke up in the bed wrapped in the man's arms. It didn't take me long to realize my clothes were off, and my ankle wasn't the only thing in pain. I can't believe it. This man just raped me. THIS MAN JUST RAPED ME!!! I had to get out of here right now. I wiggled my way out of his arms as he began to stir. The adrenaline running through my  body lessened the pain. I was determined. With every hop the floorboards creaked  loudly. When I pulled on the door knob the hinges screamed making the man jump up. I  hopped down the hallway as fast as I could. When I turned the corner I saw the door  from when I first arrived. As quickly as my fingers touched the golden lock is as quickly  as I was pulled back. He towered over me with an expression I didn't recognize.  "You wanna go home so bad? LET'S GO!!" he put his wallet, and keys in his pocket. He put me in the passenger seat, and we were off. Something had to be wrong with this man, was he really about to let me go? If he was planning to take me somewhere to murder me wouldn't he put me in the trunk so no one  would you see me?  After many turns I started to recognize the area. This man was actually taking me home. We turned onto my street passing my house. “Umm you passed my house."  “We aren't going to your house. We're going to your school.” he said as pulled into the front of the school putting his car in park. The clock read 3:20 P.M. School just let out so students should be coming out in no time. The first student came out followed by a riot of people. The man pulled me out of the car holding my wrist tight. He took me to the middle of the front lawn where people stopped and looked with confused looks on their faces. I was just as confused as them. Wasn't he about to let me go? When I looked over | felt something sharp on my neck. It was a knife. Before I had a chance to react he sliced quickly and deeply. I heard the chorus of gasps as I dropped to the ground trying to take in any air I could. Through the slits of my closing eyes I saw the silver gun in his hand.  He proceeded to put it in his mouth. I couldn't hold on any longer shutting my eyes letting death take me. With a loud POP! I was gone.

BREAKING NEWS Jefferson High School has suffered a great loss today. A female student, whose name will remain anonymous, dead of a large and deep wound across the throat. To read more please visit artofme.org

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DEAR EDUCATORS. THANK YOU, JUST THANK YOU A dedication written in 2017 by our Creative Director, however the message extends to educators who have been working through this unprecedented time.

As a writer, lately I've found myself having serious writer's block. Feeling a bit stuck in what I consider my safe haven until now.

Almost a year ago now, I had a crisis of conscience when I took a long hard look at where I was in my life. There I was sitting in on high level forums at the UN during the day and filling each leftover second working on a film. I found it somewhat surprising to feel more fulfilled when I was in the world of filmmaking than when I was listening to ambassadors speak. I wondered if it was the creative side of me reacting to a life spent stifled in my own mind, endlessly pursuing the many dreams other people had for me, or if it was the need to see the light of day and be out on the field making a real difference. Maybe a combination of both. It was unclear what my path would be, because film came into my life by accident, something I just kind of stumbled into. All the while discovering that film could have just a big of an impact as any other platform. It was in that crisis of conscience that my cousin asked me what I would do if I knew I wouldn't fail. My immediate thought was: Write. She asked me to think of and write about an object from the past that meant something significant to me. I immediately saw, clear as day, my brown spiral notebook from 9th grade English class. And there was my teacher, Mr. Delaney, a tall man with a thick Irish accent and a penchant for having students recite sonnets in class every day. He challenged us to think critically in a way I had never experienced before nor since. He had us write stories and reflections in our notebooks. He would diligently review them each day. He would have us review each other's work. For the most part, the class hated it. I loved it. One day he asked me to stay behind to discuss some stories I wrote. He told me that my writing revealed more of who I was to him than any time I ever spoke up in class, and that one day he hoped that I would be brave enough to share that with the world. He handed me my notebook and inside was a note saying that I inspired him, that he had faith in me, and that I just needed to work a little more on my character development. Mr. Delaney left at the end of that school year but that moment stays with me now. It was then that I realized that writing would be in my future and that I would use it to work with young people. Young people who wanted - needed - to hear that someone was ready to listen to them ART OF ME

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DEAR EDUCATORS, THANK YOU. JUST THANK YOU I'm still building the courage to share my stories with the world. I lost that particular notebook during Hurricane Sandy and, while those stories are gone, there are more to live and write. The story I am living has me in a nonprofit career that combines my newfound love of filmmaking and passion for storytelling. Through Art of Me, I am fulfilling my own dream of working with youth in education. With Art of Me I have the opportunity to work with young people who are much braver than I ever was, facing a world much more daunting than I ever imagined. We work with them to think critically and actively about who they want to be in the world and what kind impact they want to make. We empower them to have the agency to discuss difficult and often controversial issues. We bring their stories to life through film. We give them the platform to continue those important discussions with their peers, with adults. We inspire professional filmmakers to want to give back in a big way. All of this great work-important work, and I've just now come to realize that it isn't even the most important part of what we do. Recently I was reminded of that feeling I had when Mr. Delaney told me that my stories mattered. I was in a high school English classroom, for the first time since I was a student, listening to teachers speak about their work. Their words could have been Mr. Delaney's: Valued, relevant, inspiring. It makes me feel hopeful that those kinds of teachers exist in the world and grateful that students are able to learn from them. And that at Art of Me we work to support them in that effort. Educators, It is with them that the most important part of our work begins. In their classrooms. Day in and day out, they give of themselves and work with the students. They go beyond just implementing our curriculum, and challenge students to think reflectively, creatively and intellectually. They provide an open and safe environment to do so. As a result of that dedication, we benefit greatly, with the raw and rich youth-stories that are submitted to us. It is my hope that one day we will be able to feature more than just the winning stories, giving a voice to as many young people especially to those who feel ostracized and alone. We'll get there. I am committed to get there. "Work a little more on character development," he wrote. How surprising that that little maxim has applied so much more to my life than just in my writing. It's what we hope our young people will do, and it's what I continually remind myself to do now and, I hope, forever. Thank you, Mr. Delaney. Our stories do matter.

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Throughout our various projects we have worked with wonderful teams of filmmakers. If you are looking for a film crew email info@artofme.org. ART OF ME |Â 35

WAYS TO SUPPORT ART OF ME Support our work to help young people tell their stories. Art of Me is a growing non-profit organization operating in Cleveland and New York. We are expanding our reach to other cities, to more students and educators. Our goal is to give students the platform to find their truth and their power through storytelling in many different formats (film, writing, music, and much more). You can support our work in a number of ways. By donating, you can help fund our ongoing programs. Your donation will be 100% tax deductible. You can donate at artofme.org If you decide to become a community sponsor, your ongoing support will help our organization continue its work in passing the mic to young people, who have important and relevant stories to tell. We will highlight your company on our many platforms including in an issue of the publication like this! Additionally, you can volunteer to be a reviewer for our stories and online publication. You can give valuable feedback to students who are eager to have their stories read and published. Our work is more important than ever. We need to give the youth the tools and the opportunity to continue to push forth in this fight and to change the narrative for their future. If you have any questions or would like to speak to one of us please contact info@artofme.org .

“Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.” - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Author


Profile for Art of Me

Art of Me - The Next Generation of Storytellers  

This is an online publication published by non-profit organization, Art of Me. The publication is designed to showcase youth stories that ar...

Art of Me - The Next Generation of Storytellers  

This is an online publication published by non-profit organization, Art of Me. The publication is designed to showcase youth stories that ar...

Profile for artofme1