This spring, Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.) collaborated with Urban Art Beat and Theatre of the Oppressed NYC to create captivating projects to express their core messages with a broader audience. They met twice weekly from February through April to put together an interactive theatre show as well as an original hip-hop song and two short films all touching on topics of community violence and social change.

On April 18th, YO S.O.S. performed at BRIC to an audience of more than 100 community members including other young people, family, friends, and the community at large. Youth groups in attendance included Exalt, Justice Community Plus, the Red Hook Initiative, and Center for Anti-Violence Education.

Urban Art Beat kicked off the show by sharing their videos and song and then sitting on a panel to answer questions from the audience. Youth Organizer Helene spoke about the song’s title, “Level Up,” comparing it to the idea getting to the next level of a video game and explaining that in life, you always want to improve, do better for yourself and your community, and get to the next level of success. Theatre of the Oppressed closed out the event with their play which centered on the challenges a high school girl faces as she navigates school life, conflicts with her mother at home, and her relationship in which her boyfriend experiences the loss of his friend to gun violence and then asks her to hold a gun for him. After completing their performance, the theatre group’s jokers, aka facilitators, Gariyana and Adama, both YO S.O.S. alums themselves, led the audience through the process of intervening in the scenes where the protagonist faced oppression. Audience members were invited onstage to take on the role of a character and act out the scene in new ways to produce better outcomes.

The event was a success and was quickly followed by a second show at Repair the World on April 23. Guests included friends, family, and other youth programs such as Justice Community Plus, Teen PACT, and Youth Communications. The Youth Organizers performed once again and engaged the audience in dialogue and interactive problem solving. During the Urban Art Beat panel, Youth Organizer Matthew spoke to the historical and cultural relevance of music as a tool for messages. He explained, “When we wanted to pass down stories, we used music sometimes…making a song is the best way to convey a message because not everyone likes listening to a TED talk but if you put [your message] to a beat, people are going to start listening to it.”

After each show, the audience was encouraged to share feedback about their experience. Audience comments included:

“I’m really encouraged to see the youth organizers and all their great ideas and attitudes! … I would love to see this advertised all over – it’s really powerful and many would benefit.”

“I’d like to say you guys [the Youth Organizers] were amazing and the energy was there…I will take away the fact that our message (teens) is being put out there and it’s a start.”

“People must not only hear young people but listen to them…Everyone involved …was so positive and uplifting.”

“Fantastic job! Amazing work and 2 beautiful finished products. Keep doing what you’re doing and working to better your communities and amplify teen voices”

The Youth Organizers will be performing their play, titled “99 Problems” again on May 9th at the Brooklyn Solidarity Event which will gather more than 80 youth to speak out against gun violence. The videos produced in collaboration with Urban Art Beat can be viewed on our website here and we’ve included one below for your listening pleasure!

For more info about YO S.O.S., email us at yosos@crownheights.org and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @youthorganizing and at Facebook.com/yosos.