Project Spotlights Dynamic Caribbean Youth
When planning for the future of a nation, the community may look to politicians and prominent members in society who have the power to make change through politics, laws and financial power.
Yet the true potential of any community today lies in the emerging generation, those visionary teens and young adults in the 15-29 gap that, with their dynamic perspectives in an increasingly globalized and technologically-advanced world, seek to be the change they wish to see in their community and the wider globe.
That’s the thought behind the , an initiative by the United Nations Development Programme that seeks to produce a platform of short documentary webisodes that highlight these visionary young people who are changing their communities and the Caribbean.
Partnering with the UNDP project is ARC Magazine, a cultural platform itself that seeks to identify and grow the Caribbean cultural community through identifying, discussing and promoting significant work and events taking place in the region.
It’s founders and editors Holly Bynoe and Nadia Huggins have taken up the Youth-IN Visions project and over a period of four months will travel to The Bahamas, Barbados, St. Lucia, Suriname, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Dominica to spotlight four young people in each place that are making a difference in arts, literature, culture, sciences, politics, tourism, heritage, gender and equality, entrepreneurship, environmental protection and energy conservation.
The hope, they say, is for the project to examine what it’s like to be young and dynamic in the Caribbean, allowing the webisodes to negotiate a new identity for the region.
“I think that people have this idea of what the Caribbean is and I think in many ways it has damaged us,” Holly Bynoe pointed out. “So I think we need to get our act together and export the true reality of what’s happening in the Caribbean.”
“It’s important that we have movement post-independence, and I think a lot of young people are thinking about autonomy in different ways,” she continued. “I think once you get to that idea of what independence means and how it can function and make something for yourself and not follow previous outdated models of doing things, then it becomes really interesting because you get to analyze the space as a whole.”
Applicants for the project already display this strong sense of self-awareness and the keen ability to not only identify shortcomings in their communities, but also the drive and resourcefulness to improve those gaps despite the inherent challenges of such living spaces.
As their first stop on their travels to complete the project, The Bahamas provided fifteen applicants to the pair. However, they selected only four individuals whose projects and organizations are making revolutionary strides across segments of Bahamian society – in arts and culture (Poinciana Paper Press), entrepreneurship and the economy (Islandz), environmental awareness and preservation (Young Marine Explorers) and youth empowerment (Bahamas National Youth Council).
“I think these young people are also working with everything that’s around them,” said Bynoe. “Even though they are young, they want to see how they can change their spaces. So they’re working with younger children and they’re thinking about what sort of systems they can put in place to have a more solid infrastructure so problems we’ve faced do not happen again.”
One of the applicants who the pair filmed this week, for example, educates children about their environment to spread the message of conservation in a time of major urban development. For 24-year-old Nikita Shiel-Rolle, the project is a chance to share her Young Marine Explorers program, a nonprofit scientific program that targets the importance of conservation to Bahamian children.
“With the work that I do, it’s all about developing youth and being a leader, so anything that allows me to share that message and encourage other youth throughout the region to develop their capacities to become better leaders, I’m happy to do that,” said Shiel-Rolle. “This is a great platform for me to share the work that I’m doing and to open doors for me to develop the plan further, to take it regionally.”
Indeed the plan, said Bynoe and Huggins, is for these initial episodes to go towards developing a web platform where any dynamic young person in the Caribbean beyond the CARICOM-targeted countries can share the important work they’re doing in their communities. Such a platform would eliminate the boundaries between our fragmented and isolated Caribbean societies in order to work towards collaboration and development as a region.
The partnership between ARC Magazine and the Youth-IN Visions Project is no coincidence – this same aim of opening up dialogues between Caribbean nations in order to define and build a collective culture has been an ongoing goal of the publication and Internet platform since its inception two years ago.
During their travels, the pair will not only work towards featuring dynamic young leaders but also building upon relationships in the communities that they can continue to strengthen through ARC long after the UNDP project is over.
“Initially they realized we had a really good base network to start with and we were able to target their target audiences because our target audience is the same,” said Huggins. “So we had that grounding that made it very easy to get into this. Plus we both have a background in production and it’s something we’re both passionate about. I love working with young people and I love being able to inspire other young people, especially through video and photography.”
“We understand for us to effectively make anything change in the Caribbean, we have to have relationships with people across the islands,” added Bynoe. “The only way to build and nurture these relationships is to have face time with them for them to understand that we’re trying to really provide a democratic network of people to express and aid in their interests.”
In between filming the four webisodes, the pair embarked on a packed schedule of studio and gallery visits, as well as leading a critical conversation at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas this past Monday evening about the partnership between ARC and The Bahamas.
Their visit also coincided with Transforming Spaces 2012 art tour under the theme of “Fibre”, which Bynoe also explored. The work they see coming out of The Bahamas through the tour and studio visits, they said, is very promising – especially from emerging Bahamian artists whose work they hope to feature more in the future through a partnership between ARC and The College of The Bahamas.
“I had this idea of what you would be producing and I thought it would be very conservative and not really dynamic, and I was shocked to see a lot of the student work coming out of these spaces,” admitted Bynoe. “I think there’s massive potential coming out of this island especially by the younger students.”
“I also think the most surprising thing is the fact that you guys actually have a community here that seems to be cohesive, and it seems you all support each other, that all of these spaces come together for the greater good of support and culture-building,” she added. “Other countries we’ve visited, work is produced in isolation, so that cohesiveness of the community has been the most significant thing.”
Though they continue their travels this weekend – eventually ending up in Suriname where they will also launch the fifth issue of ARC Magazine with Readytex art gallery – they look forward to building upon the relationships with the Bahamian creative community on the ARC platform and encourage Bahamian artists and creative leaders to take advantage of that in the wake of their visit.
“The one thing I’d really want to see happen in 2012 is people beginning to really use ARC,” said Bynoe. “Send us what you want to be promoted. We are here; we have an open system where you can send us anything that if we deem important, we put it up and highlight it and get in touch with you. But just be willing to offer that to us, to go that extra mile to give us what we need to become the type of publication we want to become.”
To find out more about the Youth-IN Visions project, check out ARC online at arcthemagazine.com.