NYC Youth Use Film to Connect Storytelling and Social Justice

NYC Youth Use Film to Connect Storytelling and Social Justice

November 17, 2016 | Global Action Project


Global Action Project (G.A.P.) provides some of New York City’s most socially engaged and effective media arts programming to young people from low-income, new immigrant, and LGBTQ communities. Working with professionally trained artist-educators, youth collaborate to make powerful media that amplifies their diverse stories and use that media to educate and advocate on behalf of their respective communities.

Since our founding in 1991, G.A.P. has created over 180 award-winning and critically acclaimed videos on a range of topics; trained thousands of youth; and developed an award-winning media production, media literacy, and popular education curriculum that has been adopted and used by hundreds of organizations and educators. We also collaborate with dynamic grassroots organizations, locally and nationally, to create innovative media that amplifies youth-led campaign work. We recently released a report documenting the impact of that work, Media in Action: A Field Scan of Media & Youth Organizing in the U.S. 

Our youth-produced film Keep Ya Head Up calls attention to the intersection of today’s most critical social justice issues by telling the story of two New York City high school students who navigate a world filled with Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, and police violence. Keep Ya Head Up was produced by Youth Breaking Borders (YBB), an intensive, nine-month media, popular education, and leadership program for immigrant and refugee youth.

At last year’s premiere of Keep Ya Head Up, Misbah Awan, a youth producer who played the protagonist in the film, remarked that the “film takes us on a journey where [the two main characters] find that amidst the oppression that they face, their solidarity gives them strength … We made this film because we realize that immigrant communities are intentionally targeted and criminalized in unique ways. Although our struggles may be unique to our specific experiences, they stem from the same institutions. Our message is: Let’s struggle together.” Hatim Mohamed, another YBB youth producer, added: “At Global Action Project, we believe in connecting our message and the story within the film to the experiences of our audiences. These connections are the basis for building power.

Over the past year, youth leaders at G.A.P. have been leading community screenings of Keep Ya Head Up across New York City (as well as nationally and internationally). For all G.A.P. films, youth producers identify target audiences and impact goals and, from there, develop and implement a comprehensive outreach and distribution plan. Our distribution plans enable educators and community organizers to use our media as centerpieces in curricula and campaigns. We screen the films at local, national, and international film festivals; New York City public schools (especially international high schools that work with immigrant youth); immigrant, homeless, and LGBTQ youth-serving agencies; and conferences. Specific goals for Keep Ya Head Up screenings and workshops include: (1) highlighting the intersections of Islamophobia and anti-Black racism in schools; (2) analyzing ways that educators and administrators can act as either gatekeepers or allies; (3) providing space for youth and educators to dialogue about potential solutions to these issues; and (4) building the collective power and agency of the youth.

For more information, including our soon-to-be-released 2016 films, please check out Global Action Project’s website.

This is one in a series of blog posts written by 2016 NCCD Media for a Just Society Award winners and finalists. Read more about the series here