Generation Dream: Performing Art for Peace and Justice | Community Idea Stations


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Generation Dream: Performing Art for Peace and Justice

Each year during Black History Month, youth from across Greater Richmond take the stage to honor the legacy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  A project of the Richmond Peace Education Center, “Generation Dream” showcases young talent and their vision for a more just world. Catherine Komp has more for Virginia Currents.

Learn More: Generation Dream will be performed Sunday, February 21st at 3:00 p.m. at Huguenot High School. More details at the Richmond Peace Education Center's website.


(Parent: Is this the green room?)

At the Richmond Public Library, dozens of performers check into a green room and warm up in the last minutes before showtime.

(Music: City Singers Youth Choir)

One of the first act’s is a group from the City Singers Youth Choirs, a two-decade old arts and educational organization. Beginning with Yangtze Boatman’s Chantey, they present four pieces spanning six centuries to show “from the earliest moments of human history, song has been used to unite and empower.” 

(Music: City Singers Youth Choir)

An initiative of the Richmond Peace Education Center, the annual concert Generation Dream gives youth a creative outlet to respond to social and political issues. Adria Scharf is the organization’s executive director.

Adria Scharf: The young people of our region are so creative, they have so much to say and they are thirsty to be part of making positive change happen and they are thirsty to have these platforms to make their voices heard and to make them heard creatively and positively in a way that’s inspiring and powerful and sometimes angry, in a way that touches the audience members.

(Students performing “Kings Before Presidents”)

“Kings Before Presidents” is an original spoken word piece by youth from Richmond’s Tawheed Prep School. In this rhythmic performance, the youth tackle racism, bullying, faith, family, Islamophobia, identity and the inequities of the criminal justice system.

(Students performing “Kings Before Presidents”)

More than a decade ago, the murders of several local teens prompted educator and artist Ram Bhagat to launch the Richmond Youth Peace Project and this series of annual concerts.

Ram Bhagat: Good evening, we’re here to honor legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, drum major peace and justice (applause).

The co-founder of Drums No Guns asks who in audience knows someone affected by gun violence.

Bhagat: How many of you know two people who’ve been shot and killed? Three people? Four people? Look at the hands around us. We have to do something about this. We have to do something about this, right?

(Ambient: drums)

Gun violence is the focus of another original act, titled “I AM.” Five pairs of youth start the piece by moving and gesturing to the rhythm of the drum. When the music stops, a heartbeat is extinguished. One person falls to the ground while their partner provides a glimpse of the departed.

(Students performing “I AM”)

Jayla Daniels: It’s a street theater piece and it involves kids, teenagers that get shot around the Richmond area, young kids and how we feel about that and how it should it be stopped.

Jayla Daniels, Josephine Riederer, and Djimon Waddey were part of the group that created I AM. Waddey knew one of the fallen youth featured in the piece.

Djimon Waddey: His name was Jamel Thomas Cobb… I knew him from my brother and he was the best person ever, friendly, everything and just to see him go, it was hard for my brother so I had to uplift him, tell him he’s in a better place.

Waddey describes I AM as passionate, something to hit your soul to give you a better understanding of the impact of gun violence. Riederer hopes the piece, which they performed at the State Capitol, wakes people up.

Josephine Riederer: Through doing this as an art piece it’s a way to evoke the emotions of such a thing because often we hear about it but we don’t think about it enough so this was a way to get people to think.

(Shayla Winn performing “One Last Goodbye”)

The teens say Generation Dream and the Richmond Youth Peace Project have exposed them to new ideas and people and helped build their confidence. Thomas Jefferson senior Khadijah Baker says it’s also an important venue for youth who have a big role to play in finding solutions to social problems.

Khadijah Baker:  It teaches people in this community that there are youth out there who care about what’s happening around them, they’re not just going to stand by and let these things happen. They’re voicing their opinion through creative forms, dance, singing and spoken word.

Baker’s been involved with the Peace Project for five years and in the last Generation Dream, she did an original poem about domestic violence. These issues take on a different meaning, she says, when you understand them through the lens of young people.

Baker: If a grown man or woman is sitting on TV talking about it, people are going to listen it but they won’t take it a more personal sense, but if you see a young person on TV or in front of you telling a poem about America and their issues and everything, they’re going to sit down and say there’s a young person who’s sophisticated and smart enough to notice what’s going on around them and they want to make a stand against it.

(Drums No Guns performing)

In addition to Generation Dream, the Richmond Youth Peace Project trains teens in leadership and conflict resolution skills and organizes a day long “Peace Summit” open all area youth. For Virginia Currents, this is Catherine Komp, WCVE News.