Four days before the fatal deaths and tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, 24 of BAYCAT’s young filmmakers, ages 11-16, put themselves on the line in a nonviolent and expressive way on the stage of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema here in San Francisco. Building together a series of short films and animations on the theme of innovation, they premiered to the world, their stories and inventions to inspire us to rethink the social issues that they grow up with every single day: gun violence, racism, gender inequality, gentrification, immigration, incarceration, and the need for safe spaces– while sprinkling the show with their sense of humor with things like an indestructible juice box.
Then Heather Heyer made the news, along with others who lost their lives or were injured by putting themselves on the line. Even more disheartening to witness throughout this week of tweets and headlines is the growing hate, fear and anxiety, and for me personally, the lack of moral leadership from the President.
“I want you, the audience, to reflect on how you can make a change to help social injustices through innovation. I believe you out there can be part of the social innovation that is now occurring, and that you can be the change you want to see.” – Jamahl Edwards, 14, Award-Winning Youth Media Producer
Rather than dividing our communities, our government and business leaders, it is the wisdom of BAYCAT’s teenagers I would rather follow. Working with our youth every day and watching these films reminds me that “out of the mouths of babes,” these youth, our own kids are urging us to INNOVATE. We need a new way to talk to each other. To work with each other. To be with each other. To share who we are, what we value, what we are afraid of, and what our dreams are. Safely.
Jamahl also said to the live audience during the premiere, “I don’t want to be a statistic.” We don’t want you to be either. Not one of those stereotypical ones, where young African-American teenagers are destined for jail or the streets.
Last year in my TED Talk, I confronted one of my deepest fears, my own racism. Part of my healing journey was to start a business to end racism and social inequality, one untold story at a time.
If you are like us, and want to rewrite America’s narrative, or help us to build our safe space that allows young people to fully express themselves and to innovate new ways we can work together, then join our community. Join the conversation. Watch their work below. Comment. Tell them you believe in them. Share. Invest.