Street Literature



The Power of Stories is an archive of projects submitted every year to Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Statewide Convening. It showcases work created throughout California highlighting the power of individual and collective efforts to promote health and demonstrates how stories have the power to re-imagine and transform our communities. Produced in partnership with the California Endowment.

Project submitted by: Gemikia Henderson

Submission summary: The song and video were entirely created by young folks as a response to the pain, frustration, and anger that was triggered by the killing of Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman verdict.

BHC site: Richmond

Young artists from Richmond, CA have something to say and the RYSE Youth Center provides support in elevating youth voices in meaningful ways. Street Literature is the result of young folks coming together to share the impact that the deaths of individuals such as Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Israel Hernandez, and Michael Brown have had on them. Tired of being ignored, silenced, judged, and criminalized, these youth decided to voice their thoughts on how they are viewed and treated in our larger society. Using hip-hop music as a tool for self-expression, these young artists have demonstrated the courage to speak their minds, to make the world see them for who they really are, and to emerge as young leaders in the effort to transform both their own community and communities like Richmond, CA around the world.

Raised in Richmond CA, 21-year-old Gemikia Henderson is one of RYSE's up-and-coming video producers and directors. Gemikia started doing film in 2011 as a Media, Arts and Culture intern at the RYSE Center. In the two and a half years she's been working at RYSE, Gemikia has developed myriad filmmaking skills.

What motivated her to create this work was the injustice that was going on not just from Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman trial but also with the killings of Oscar Grant, Isreal Hernandez and other young people who lives were taking too soon by the hands of police or citizens.

In regards to Street Literature and her work Gemikia says, "Everything just fell into place - we were pretty straight up about what we wanted and did just that. We were super excited and very dedicated to put the project out to our community with hope of reaching as many people as we can. My goal is to continue to uplift youth in my community and make videos that express how young people or I may feel at that moment about anything."


This project aligns to BHC work in the following categories: changing the stories we tell about our community, lifting up the voices of historically marginalized communities, supporting youth as leaders of change, enhancing our ability to work together, promoting healing, and increasing our ability to attract new partners and support for our work. Street Literature is a clear example of youth using media to develop, heal, and transform themselves and their community. The song and video were entirely created by young folks as a response to the pain, frustration, and anger that was triggered by the killing of Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman verdict. It was a healthy and positive release for a group of young folks who felt that the verdict sent the message that their lives don't matter. They were unafraid to share their pain and speak their truth as a way to heal, create dialogue, and spark collective action. Also, the project opened many doors for our young folks. The video garnered a large degree of support from funders, community members, media outlets, and partner organizations. A few highlights include media coverage from KCBS radio, KDOL, Colorlines.com, KQED's Education blog, and Richmond Confidential, screenings at the Men of Merit Celebration, the Brothers of the Rise Film Festival, and a Factory meeting at BAVC, and live performances at a Teach for America meeting with 75+ local teachers, the SF Youth Media Summit, RYSE's own Summer Jam, and a variety of other local events.

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