Stitchers Youth Council Spotlight: Cali

The Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective, a 501(c)(3) organization, is professional artists and inner-city youth grades ages 16-24, working together to create social change with a focus on gun violence prevention.

Stitchers collect local stories, reframe and retell them through art, writing and performance to promote understanding, civic pride, intergenerational relationships and literacy.

Story Stitchers are artists-in-residence at Kranzberg Arts Foundation in the vibrant Grand Center Arts District and run a Storefront Studio for publishing at 616 N Skinker Blvd. in the historic Loop District.

Meet Cali, a member of the Stitchers Youth Council…


Cali came to Story Stitchers in January 2018 as a high school senior. He is now 20 years old. Cali is a dancer and performed in five of the Story Stitchers Not Another One! high school performances about gun violence prevention in 2018/19. Cali completed high school with a GED. He likes to learn new things and at Story Stitchers he has been doing some amazing nature photography, learning to do graphic design and videography. He is in the premiere group of youth performers in the Stitchers Youth Council as a dancer. This group will be going to Seattle, Washington in November to perform to Unity Summit, sponsored by Missouri Foundation for Health and Change Philanthropy.

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“I’ve been to Seattle before by myself but this time I’m going to be with family, my Story Stitchers family, so it’s going to be way more fun. And I’m excited about the performances we’re going to do and visiting the Pop Culture Museum. Three of my friends are going to be at my house the night before we go and then a taxi is going to pick us up and take us to the airport at 3:30 AM! So I’m going to be tired but excited.”

Cali has participated in a Story Stitchers radio interview at KDHX, many Story Stitchers performances, and joined his peers to write a youth grant to St. Louis Mental Health Board for a new school assembly program called, Good For Your Health. He is known for his fashion-forward style, his warm smile and welcoming demeanor. He is always ready to learn or to help another.

“I’m learning how to become a better role model because I get put in a lot of situations here where I have to have a leadership mentality. When I perform with the dancers we all know what to do but sometimes I help the group to sum up the whole performance before the show, like when we rehearse. When we perform for little kids at elementary schools the little kids go crazy because they like our dancing and they try to copy us. So we are careful about what we are modeling to them.”

“Right now I’m a STL Youth Jobs intern at Story Stitchers. My job coach is very hands on and she checks up on me a lot. At Story Stitchers I am working on creating beats for the dancers and curating and editing photographs for our upcoming show, To The Prairie, at The High Low in Grand Center next March. I also do graphic design and I just finished the cover art for our new song, ANTI, which is about bullying. It’s on iTunes and all the major music platforms.”

You can find links to the song on our website:

The goal for all Story Stitchers projects is to promote a better educated, more peaceful and caring region through storytelling. A core creative group of professional artists and African American youth generate original work through a unique form of “urban storytelling” that includes hip hop, spoken word, photography and videography and disseminate new works through public presentations and performances. The Collective’s body of work focuses on gun violence prevention and topics related to public health issues.

Story Stitchers’ programs are driven by the interests and concerns of low-income, black youth and as a result have focused on gun violence since 2014. Gun violence is a pressing public health crisis that consumes the attention of the engaged youth. Youth have the opportunity to work through their pain and loss and be a force multiplier, impacting families, schools and neighborhoods.

Stitchers is committed to placing youth at the center of the work both in identifying topics for exploration as well as the methods for engagement. This approach builds a community of youth and professional artists who respect one another. We are proud that our primary method for recruiting new youth is word of mouth from their peers.

Since 2013 Saint Louis Story Stitchers have gained support from or collaborated with: Washington University in St. Louis, Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Missouri Foundation for Health, Regional Arts Commission, Missouri Arts Council, Mid-America Arts Alliance, National Endowment for the Arts, Missouri Humanities Council, National Endowment for the Humanities, Youthbridge Community Foundation, Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund, Saigh Foundation, Cardinals Care, University of Missouri’s Extension Service’s St. Louis Storytelling Festival, KWMU’s We Live Here, Saint Louis Art Museum, Fringe Fest, St. Louis Mental Health Board, and more. The Collective meets with youth year-round and has presented publicly over 150 times, engaging a diverse audiences of over 15,000.

Together, we can do so much more for our at risk youth in Saint Louis. Please make a gift today to support Saint Louis Story Stitchers in the New Year—and beyond.

Thank you and Happy Holidays!