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RYSE: Richmond Youth Raise Their Voices

Multi-layered. Pride and Purpose. Rich History.

These are just a few words to describe the artwork, the intentions, and the context of youth from the RYSE Youth Center whose work is currently on display at California Humanities.

The three-month gallery display, “Richmond Renaissance” takes its name from a recent theatrical production produced by RYSE. The period piece was set in a 1940s juke joint in North Richmond, focused on love and blues.

The exhibit uses the past as prologue, as young people draw inspiration from the past to imagine a new and brighter future. Also, the pieces lift up the voice of young people, too often unheard, in the conversation about gentrification of their city.

A photo series, “Rich History,” by Francisco Rojas, shows a stark view of the city, filled with vacant lots and abandoned buildings, a somber reminder of Richmond’s not-so-distant foreclosure crisis.

Multiple pieces inspired by the Richmond Renaissance musical are featured in the display. “Mahalia Blinds” by Aziza Thomas repurpose an old wooden frame and plantation shutters. One side featured a portrait of Mahalia, portrayed by Kabreshiona Smith, and the other is a message of affirmation. Daioge Martin, 17, created a number of portraits of cast members, based on photographs of youth in their costumes.

A large memory map features a large, vintage hand-painted map of Richmond. Multi-colored pins, attached by string to corresponding cards list long-time residents’ memories of places and spaces, as well as their hopes for the future of Richmond.

The final series features interactive paintings by Richmond youth covered by photographic transparencies. The portraits show youth voices as layers of affirmation and remind youth to continue to reflect on their personal growth.

Closing Reception

Thursday, September 28th

5:30 – 7:30 PM

With live youth performances at 6:00 PM

Location: Swan’s Market 538 9th Street, Second Floor, Oakland, CA

free and open to the public

While Richmond Renaissance theme may described a bygone era in which Black migrants to California used love and ingenuity to strive and thrive in post-war Richmond, today, a new generation of young migrants and the children and grandchildren of those earlier migrants use performance and visual expression to create their own renaissance.

Rasheed Shabazz, former Director of Media, Arts & Culture at the RYSE Youth Center in Richmond.

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