What if knowing your history could give you a greater sense of confidence and inspire your direction in life'
The project was made to be liberating, eye-opening, and informative...an effort to spark interest in individuals to discover their heritage and to learn more about the history of their origins.?? Thomas EvansFollowing the success of They Still Live in 2017, artist Thomas Evans wanted to make an impact on his Denver community by inviting young adults to explore their heritage through art, poetry, and photography. The evolution of Thomas' exhibit turned into We Still Live, a community-based art project collaboration with Arts [email protected], professor and African art collector Paul Hamilton, and Denver gang prevention programs. The program offers a positive alternative for youth to counter negative influences by exploring self-identity and cultural heritage through art. The project started in June 2017 with 49 young adults referred by Denver Public Schools and social service agencies. The youth selected reported having had contact with the juvenile justice system or self-identified higher risk factors for potential gang involvement. By using AncestryDNA to help uncover their ethnicity and ancestral roots, students were given a deeper sense of belonging to their history and community. Initiating this project, we talked to youth about problems in their communities and they told us that gang involvement and violence was impacting their neighborhoods. One young man told us,
'Kids first look to joining a gang because they feel they don't have a place in this world - or a point for even being. They need opportunities to shine a light on a new way.'"One of the art projects was for students to make a mask representing who they were as individuals. Another exercise challenged students to write identity poems based on writing prompts from poet and guest instructor Toluwanimi Oluwafunmilayo Obiwole. Students then viewed Paul Hamilton's collection of African artifacts and masks. Professor Paul Hamilton is an African Studies academic, previous Colorado State Representative, and renowned collector of fine African masks and African art. See a past interview we had with Mr. Hamilton here. After completing the program, students were asked to share their feedback on how the program helped transform their thinking. The participant survey was created by the National Research Center for the Alliance for Creative Youth Development and it reported that: