On Wednesday, April 20th, Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.) launched an anti-violence multimedia campaign titled, “6 Feet Above.” The campaign was developed by the youth of YO S.O.S. in collaboration with Urban Art Beat, Urban Arts Partnership, and Urban Word NYC. The campaign and title were developed to promote celebrating life over death and peace over violence, and to acknowledge how powerful and successful we can be when we join together to rise above hardship.
Held at St. Francis de Sales school, more than 200 people came out to celebrate the campaign launch and to support youth leadership for peace and justice. Groups in attendance included Project Reach Youth, Diaspora Community Services, the Future Project, Red Hook Initiative, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Brooklyn Defender Services, Flex Dance, the Brownsville Community Justice Center, Operation H.O.O.D., GMAAC, S.O.S. Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy, and friends, family, and alumni of YO S.O.S.
The evening began with remarks from the Mediation Center’s Association Director of Youth and Community Programs, Heather Day, and Save Our Streets Crown Heights Program Manager, David Gaskin. Special guests Council Member Laurie Cumbo and Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna, also attended and spoke to the audience about the power of arts as a tool for change, and the importance of youth leadership and civic engagement.
The audience was then treated to a surprise video message from celebrity rapper, Diggy Simmons and an opening performance by youth artists, Omatoyo and Nicholas performing on behalf of the ROADS Charter School One Mic group.
Next, YO S.O.S. hit the stage for a live performance and video premier of the hip-hop song, “One Shot.” When asked about the process of creating this project, one Youth Organizer shared a story of seeing a shooting take place in his neighborhoods just 2 weeks into the song writing process and then channeling that experience into his song writing. He concluded that he was able to write a verse that expressed his thoughts and emotions and that he was proud to share with his peers and with the world at large through the song.
The second YO S.O.S. group to perform shared a short film titled, “We Care” which was accompanied by a group poem and visuals that the youth identified to align with the words and ideas in their poem. One Youth Organizer explained that the group began their process by discussing what they believed to be the most serious issues facing their community. They focused on gun violence and gang violence, sharing personal stories with one another and then pulling pieces from everyone’s experiences to compile their collaborative group poem, which was then incorporated into the short film.
The third YO S.O.S. group shared spoken word videos and live performances, speaking powerfully about their experiences with violence, discrimination, leadership, and resiliency. One young man shared the artist statement for his poem, explaining, “This poem I made called “The Boy” is based on my life when I was younger. I was once a bully that changed his ways and then was scared of the world. I wanted to leave and I wanted to die but I had too many people that cared for me so I couldn’t do it. And now I’m still afraid but I’m getting stronger each day and I have my friends and family to thank for that. The message in my poem is that it’s ok to be afraid of something but being strong will help you conquer that fear and the people you care about will help you know that.”
The evening closed with remarks from Mediation Center Youth Programs Assistants, Rahson Johnson and Megan Ollivierre and a raffle for S.O.S. swag. Then, to end the night on a positive note, four Youth Organizers took to the stage for a step dance performance promoting peace and alternatives to violence. The final refrain of the song, “Put the guns down, put the, put the guns down!” brought the full group of YO S.O.S. youth and staff to the stage for an impromptu dance cypher while the audience cheered on from the crowd.
As the audience headed home, they were reminded that this event was only the beginning for 6 Feet Above. Staff encouraged them to share the campaign videos and their own ideas about ending violence and promoting community healing by using the hashtag #6FEETABOVE on social media.
YOU TOO CAN SUPPORT “6 FEET ABOVE!”
Join the movement by sharing the “6 Feet Above” campaign with friends and family and on social media. We hope to make our videos go viral, engaging youth and community members of all ages in our anti-violence and pro-peace messaging. To promote the campaign, share our website or our Youtube videos using the hashtag #6FEETABOVE. You can also use that hashtag to share your own messages and media that promote themes of peace building, violence reduction, and youth empowerment. To stay up to date with the campaign, follow us on social media using the handle @youthorganizing for Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, and like our Facebook page.