Reel Youth helps incarcerated kids create life-changing music videos

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After musical performances, awards and a brief high school graduation ceremony for one of the boys, it was time to screen the Reel Youth project. The crowd was clearly impressed by what had been accomplished. The lyrics in these videos cover a wide range of experiences, regrets, offences and realizations. Some of the words seemed to articulate unsaid thoughts among the crowd.

 Image from Hope Behind Bars

In addition to creating an outlet for self-reflection, the project challenged each participant to acquire new skills. They wrote lyrics, produced the music and created stop-motion animation. 
 Image from Ignite My Flame

“These videos give us a unique view into what incarcerated youth feel is required for them to participate in society,” says Bruce Dewar, CEO of 2010 Legacies Now. “We appreciate the integrity and insight that the youth brought to the project, as well as their creative use of a medium that is relevant to them.”

 Image from Hope Behind Bars

Violence is the way I used to get my salvation, 
so I paint it on the paper to release the tension.
Poverty, discrimination, drug distribution.
Guidance, illumination, love through illusion.
Gonna change and gonna try for generations...
(Hope Behind Bars)

The Reel Youth music video project was engaging and transformational because of its unique method of education. Participants were immersed in a learning environment that consisted of collaborative facilitation, rather than traditional teaching. They also learned through diverse mediums.

 Image from Ignite My Flame

Due to this dynamic learning process, youth were given a more expansive opportunity to succeed. Through their experiences, youth had the opportunity to release the weight of past experiences.
“This unique collaboration between the custody centre, Reel Youth and 2010 Legacies Now has produced two tremendously powerful videos that offer insight into the lives of young men and women in custody,” said Mary Polak, Minister of Children and Family Development.

 Image from Hope Behind Bars

Since elementary
It was destined for me to see the penitentiary. 
Why did it have to be me putting my family through this pain. 
This life is no game; 
these demons must be slain. 
My future's with my family;
catching time that slipped by me. 
This life of crime is not my destiny,
but it is my reality.
Being with my Mom, Dad and little brother; 
that's a life I want to discover.
(Hope Behind Bars)

Image from Ignite My Flame

What was his excuse for the sexual abuse?
She was such a little girl coming into his world.
Then it got worse; maybe a curse. She grew up.
What came first was the shame.
Drugs came; crack cocaine.
Twelve years old on the street; having nothing to eat.
Getting beat, looking for a place to sleep.
Now she's in jail; she's ain't getting no bail.
She's looking for a new tale.
I gotta change.
It's time to engage.
(Ignite My Flame)  
     Image from Ignite My Flame

As the recital ended, families and youth posed for pictures, shared snacks and visited. Staff members asked us to line up and prepare to leave. The crowd that poured out of the gym had to be divided by each security passage. We squished through corridors amongst families and friends. A young sibling waved and tapped on the window as we passed by a transparent room where video monitors displayed every corner of the centre. We gathered our belongings from our lockers and stepped out into the cold night as the doors were locked behind us.

To find out more about Reel Youth visit their website 

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