Young artist Jesse
Dear Viva a Vida Friends and Supporters!
“When someone puts a battery in you, to give you the energy to do something .. the project was like that for me”
Since we last sent you a report, we have been doing a lot of evaluations and preparations work behind the scenes. In December, we looked back over the year, listening to the voices of our young participants in project focus groups and written evaluations, running a team reflection session and outlining our 2017 Annual Report. Then in January we began our preparations for 2018, with project planning and team meetings to set targets for the new year and finalize our 2018Operational Plan. In February, we once again participated in the Educational Planning Week at the local High School, listening to teacher feedback and outlining our plans for 2018.
In December, we were invited to the CEPSA Foundation to collect their 2018 Social Award, won by our project Vila Jovem Grafitta – street art for social mobilization. This will enable us to run another edition of the project, called #Viva Juntos, which will benefit up to 1,800 young people through Youth Empowerment, Photography and Graffiti workshops and exhibitions.
To celebrate the Vila Jovem Grafitta achievements, we’d like to tell you a little bit about Jessé, a young man who was fed up with school, ready to leave and start working and involved in unsafe behavior. Thanks to our Human Rights & Youth Workshops and theVila Jovem Grafitta group, Jessé has changed his course and is flourishing as a young artist, keen to give back to his community.
“I learnt a lot about black identity, I really think about it differently today, and that is how I was able to truly become aware of what I should do with my life, because I was following a totally different way of behavior to what I am today... I was making a lot of mistakes, it wasn’t right... but then I managed to develop through this project, I was able to change how I think, I learnt new things, it was really good”.
Hear what Jessé has to say about his neighborhood and the effect of Viva a Vida’s projects on his life.
“My neighborhood, in terms of hospitality and studies, is abandoned, the politicians don’t go there... [Some neighborhoods]don’t have high schools, it’s really shunned, the politicians don’t pay direct attention to my neighborhood. It could be better in so many ways, the sports pitches are totally destroyed, the maintenance of the squares, nothing is 100%”
As a result of the workshops, Jessé, who had been thinking of leaving school, has changed his course, his thinking and attitudes.
“I was even thinking of leaving school... to work, but I gave that up, I changed my mind, the project helped me to understand that above all my studies should be on the agenda… and I believe that this, I repeat this again and again, has helped the community to expand from the point of view of adolescents”.
Brave enough to admit that he used to be “a bit” racist and homophobic, after entering the project, Jessé managed to overcome these barriers:
“I didn’t have the courage to admit my own identity... I was a bit racist too, prejudiced and then this changed, all this changed when I began to understand that my identity needed cultivating, and thus the prejudice, I was very prejudiced… my mind totally changed, because I was prejudiced about everything, in some ways I was a bit homophobic, I learnt to respect everyone, in the way that I want to be respected and that’s how it went. So I was able to evolve, my mind changed, I learnt to understand things, my interpretation changed a lot, all of this was thanks to the project.”
Changes in Jessé’s life didn’t stop there, if before he wasn’t excited about his own compositions, today, he only thinks about art... “I always liked [art] a lot, but I didn’t practice it in my life, I didn’t know how to practice it, but today all the walls in my bedroom are painted, today I dance, I have performed in the school, I have held a dance presentation, I sing rap, all of this was inspired by the project, you know when someone puts a battery in you, to give you the energy to do something, the project was like that for me”.
The Vila Jovem Grafitta project holds community exhibitions of the young people’s work in order to pass on their youth empowerment messages and to show the young people how valuable their work is for others. Jessé is understandably proud of the possibility of seeing his own work exhibited:
“I learnt drawing techniques, I managed to develop all of them, because the teacher makes such an effort, he gives so much of himself for the performance of his students, and so I was able to develop. Before I couldn’t draw anything but by the end of the course I was able to draw a picture which will go into the exhibition”.
Congratulations Jessé! We look forward to telling your more about the exhibitions in our next report.
In February, we relaunched our Open Agenda meetings with a fantastic debate about Gender and LGBT Rights facilitated by Vilma Bahia from the Collective of Diversity and Citizenship in Lauro de Freitas and Thiffany Odara, a trans feminist, educator and social activist. Twenty young people and adults participated in the debate, which generated a number of questions, addressed with humor and grace by these two impressive activists, who have both offered to work with Viva a Vida in the future.
After the debate, Lucas, a member of the V2 Theater Group, said this:
“I felt really fulfilled after the discussion, I didn’t want it to end. The women added so much to my life and I wanted more. Vilma has had amazing life experiences and has incredible ideas that made us think harder about issues of prejudice and about accepting ourselves. Thiffany was incredible with her dynamic and funny dialogue, she passed on her knowledge about the issue of gender brilliantly and won me over with her way of expressing herself and how she dedicated herself to helping us and answering our questions so that everything was clear... I would really like more meetings with them and to be able to work with them on a project at the NGO!
Huge thanks to Vilma and Thiffany, here’s hoping we can continue this amazing partnership!
After the Gender and LGBT Rights debate!