On August 13th Youth Unlocked Youth Leaders took The Box down to Millennial Media in Canton. When you first walk into Millennial Media you’ll see a secretary at the front desk, people talking on telephones, and folks in meetings. You step into a corporate business place, but at the same time, a playground for young college graduates. This was our first inside appearance at a business. Previously our Box appearances have been in outside community settings (Artscape, youth rallies, etc.). It was very special as well because when we had a funding gap during our last eight week project one of our Youth Coaches, Wei Hann, suggested that her job (Millennial Media) donate to us–and donate they did. We used those funds to get our box into physical completion and the presentation was our big show on their investment.
Our presentation was to be 30 minutes or so and it was set in a big conference room with glass walls. Seated in the room were staff from Millennial Media and Ingoma, Paulo and Megan, and fellow Youth Leaders, Soul and Nyara. Paulo gave an overview of what we do at Ingoma Foundation and what Youth Unlocked is. Each Youth Leader spoke about their own personal journey with The Box project as well as within Youth Unlocked. I spoke about my work in designing what Youth Unlocked is and how this Box project was our first time working together collectively as youth leaders to do a single, large-scale project. We also discussed how Youth Unlocked exposes you to different cultures and people. Nyara spoke to a gripped room about how her exposures during Youth Unlocked have opened her up to use her voice more and even have discussions with her friends about things they usually don’t speak about.
After our back stories it was time for The Box’s back story. We told the staff of Millennial Media about our journey building The Box and how it came into fruition. We knew we wanted to challenge and change the perception that exists between police and black youth. We had a few ideas ranging from a play with police officers involved, to a film skit project revolving around stereotypes. Then Rev. Alvin Herring, hoarse from tear gas he endured in Ferguson that week, came to our opening dinner and talked about the dominant narrative that exists globally about black people. In that conversation we talked about how we feel we’ve been put into a box, and how police put us in a box and we in turn put them in a box based upon stereotypes reinforced by society. We realized that living in a society where we are told who we are, what to wear, and how to look, help create boxes that are projected onto us.. We realized that all of us walk around knowingly and unknowingly in a Box that we either created or others have created. We are boxed in by our clothing choices, neighborhoods, names, car, how we speak, facial features, race, skin tone culture etc. Sometimes we live our lives just for sake of staying that box or breaking out of it. Out of these conversations we came up with the Box project. There are two parts to our project, the inside and outside. Individuals come inside to speak on what it is like to be in a box or not be in a box. For those that feel that boxed in talk about what supports they need to lift them out; and for those who do not feel boxed in talk about how others can breakthrough. Once they leave the inside they have the option to write encouraging words,quotes proverbs or draw pictures on the chalkboard based sides of the box; to help lift people out. It was time to see what how some of the staff at Millennial Media are boxed in or not.
Almost an hour in, it was time for The Box to do its magic. After Paulo played one of our box videos we opened the floor for one of Millennial Media’s staff to step into the Box. One of the staff got in and I was holding the Camera phone trying my best to keep it steady. I could feel and heard silence behind me as the room watched, waiting for him to gathering his thoughts. Since it’s my job to film people in the box, I always wondered what folk are going to speak on. Even I make my own assumptions, based upon their attitude, race, sex, community background clothing, or age. This particular staff member was a white male who looked mid 30s to 40. He opened the window and spoke. He talked about how there are two Baltimores and how he struggled with not fitting into both but how to balance trying to exists between both while at the same time not having a clue of what can be done for the two Baltimores to be connected.
For a place so technically designed, with so many different parts, and with the guise of being very corporate, the amount of team-building activities that were there such as an Xbox 360, shuffle board, a ping pong table, and a golf game. I brought up how studies show that fun team building activities can help generate a smoother work environment and create fresh ideas, as well as help build a solid team.
After three hours we left with smiles on our faces. We felt about our presentation and was very grateful for the hospitality shown. .. If it wasn’t for that donation from Millennial Media months ago, maybe there would be no Box. We thank them greatly on behalf of Youth Unlocked. Big things are small things simply done well and our Box has shown to be that. Thank you Millennial Media for your donation. We look forward to working together again soon.