Our Early Pilots
Updated: Dec 1, 2018
Describing his first journey outside of his native tribal land, Nelson Mandela said, "I had crossed the great rivers."
Throughout its journey, YEBO has experienced its own epics of discovery. In 2016, we started as an alternative behavior intervention system that used comic book creation to help a few young boys of color unpack their emotions and self-express their gifts. Since then, YEBO has lived as summer writing camp, a lunchtime comic book club, and, today, a youth development program rooted in self-exploration.
Through it all, our essence has remained unchanged - we believe deeply in a child's wisdom, and we feel media and pop-culture, when used for good, have the potential to exhume the hidden universes within each young person.
In this post, we wanted to make some space to share with you some of our early experiences building our program into what is now the Youth Empowerment Broadcasting Organization. These pilots and pop-ups helped us shape our direction, while offering us the opportunity to learn from those who matter most, the students and their families.
We hope you enjoy reading as much as we enjoyed the work!
Five Points Summer Writing Camp
In the summer of 2016, we welcomed a dozen students in grades 4-6 to a week-long summer writing camp located in the Five Points/Curtis Park neighborhood in Denver, CO.
Students had the opportunity to engage the fundamentals of comic book creation through the Pop-Culture Classroom curriculum. Participants developed characters and superheroes based on the people in their own lives, while their stories evolved into rich, textured adventures that spanned the realms of outer space, a zombie apocalypse, and a 10 year old's living room sofa.
The students were also joined by poet Jovan Mays for day of workshops on storytelling and spoken work poetry.
At the end of the program each student left with a bundle of comic books and graphic novels for some fun summer reading.
The camp was sponsored by the Denver Writing Project of the University of Colorado Denver School of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Sedibeng Project (a product of former Fulbright scholars), as well as numerous early individual supporters throughout the country and the world.
Comic Book Club
During the 2017-18 school year, we partnered with two cohorts of 4th and 5th graders to co-create a weekly comic book club during their lunch time.
These self-proclaimed nerds and geeks led design sessions on what they wanted to learn and created goals for their learnings, as well as how they wanted to accomplish those goals. We also used these design sessions to learn what was hip and relevant to the students, with a goal of making us more responsive to their unique interests.
Many of the students (obviously) wanted to enhance their drawing and illustration skills. We also covered areas such as storytelling, paneling, and character development.
Later in the year, we tested how to effectively build extension units/activities rooted in comic books and superhero pop-culture for core curriculum content, including creating a Black History unit based on the Black Panther movie/comics and the X-Men series. In the Black Panther activities, students learned the concept of Sankofa (the Asante Adinkra for the "looking back bird" - read more in the next sentence) by reaching back into their ancient cultural roots and pulling forward their royal essence. One of the most innovative techniques we witnessed was a pair of students morphing the concept of Sankofa (understanding the need to reflect on the past to build on the future) into the superpower of time traveling. Dope!
Our comic book club taught us the value of including students in the design process, while helping us to stay relevant to their passions and innovate engaging ways to teach subjects like writing, history, and social studies.
We had the privilege of facilitating pop-ups (short, half-day sessions) with some wonderful partner organizations during the spring and summer of 2018.
In May, we participated in the Moonshot edVentures piloting weekend event, where four budding programs and school models of the Moonshot School Launching Fellowship spent two days collaborating and testing their concepts with community.
YEBO held a multi-media workshop that engaged the students through media production. First, students learned about Adinkras, symbols from the Ashanti kingdom in West Africa that represent ancient wisdom and concepts. After selecting a symbol that called to them, the students unpacked how it related to their own lives and what meaning it carried for them. Then we challenged the students to create a short comic, song/beat, or photo collection inspired by the Adinkra they chose.
Check out our social media pages to see some of moments from the weekend.
Visions Performing Arts Company (VPAC)
In July, YEBO spent an afternoon working with the wonderful students participating in the VPAC summer school pilot.
Every week of this four-week pilot, VPAC invited a community partner to come an facilitate activities that called to their mission of uplifting the identities and artistic expression of black and brown youth. An additional caveat was that these sessions had to also call to the production the VPAC students were preparing for - The Wiz, Mile High City style.
We partnered with an amazing local graffiti and visual artist, Joaquin Gonzales, to offer students in grades K-11 an experience that covered the culture of Hip Hop. To start, we engaged the students with a lesson on the elements of Hip Hop and had them dissect a song by Oddisee ("That's Love"). Then we brought out the Adinkras again, and challenged the students to surface connection between a character in the Wiz and one of the symbols. Students took this inspiration into a graffiti and music production workshop.
We were deeply inspired by the sense of belonging and sense of community in the VPAC space. The lesson we took was "each one, teach one", as we witnessed countless instances where older students took the time to support their younger peers.