The mission of this cause.
Through the power of young voices, art and the Internet, The Weight of Words sees inner city teens put down guns for books.
The community need this cause addresses.
St. Louis, Missouri is the 6th most segregated city in the United States, with the highest crime and poverty rates in North County where 95% of residents are African American. St. Louis recorded nearly 160 homicides in 2014 and is on pace to top that in 2015. Teenagers living in North St. Louis report that sleeping can be difficult due to the sound of gunshots and sirens on the streets at night. In 2012 one in ten black 9-12th graders in St. Louis dropped out of high school. Literacy, avoiding guns and gang membership, and graduating high school are key to a young black male’s future and to staying out of jail. If he doesn’t graduate high school, his chances are 1 in 4 of being in jail on any given day. Literacy is key to graduation, employment and a longer, healthier and more prosperous life. The Cause is The Weight of Words. A book and a gun each weighs 2 pounds and each has the power to change the story of your life. Which one will you pick up?
How will this cause use the $25K to address an unmet need?
Funds will be used to create an outlet for powerful teen voices calling for literacy and unity in a city that is reeling from the effects of gun violence. Through a partnership between the Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective, the University of Missouri’s Digital Storytelling Program and its Extension Office’s St. Louis Storytelling Festival, Collective artists and teens will create and disseminate art works that motivate youth to put the gun down, pick up a book and take control of their own life stories to create a safer community. Funds will be used to train teens in digital storytelling. Stitchers will purchase Ipads, cameras and computers and use the newly acquired technology to create original music videos that can help to generate a new image of young men of color and a greater acceptance of differences. Messages of anti-bullying, anti-guns and an understanding of implicit bias and the importance of literacy will help to prevent violence by and against youth.
How much of a lasting impact on the community will this cause have?
Teens will develop and utilize their own strong voices to express the anguish caused by gun violence and the path they see forward to safety through reading and education and away from pain, poverty and prison. Youth listen to one another and they listen to music. They are on the Internet. They will hear the message from voices that they understand and can believe. It’s time for lasting change in St. Louis. The Weight of Words has enormous potential for impacting education and community safety. By collecting, reframing and retelling local stories, Story Stitchers artists and teens can help people understand today’s youth and their neighbors, help erase negative biases – generating understanding through art and word. Through the power of the arts and the Internet, The Weight of Words can spread literacy and stop violence. Education leads to employment, better health, and safer and more prosperous communities.