STORY #5: Artistic Expression Pillar
As a FBL program facilitator, artist, photographer, activist and gardener, I am passionate about holistic wellness, nature, yoga, plants, social justice movement work, and cooking. I grew up in Washington, DC and am proud to be working here.
In Fly By Light programming, I use visual art, photography, dialogue and creative writing to support students on their journey of self discovery and well-being. I get my inspiration from activist movements past & present, mother earth and stars. I’m also deeply inspired by our young people’s creativity, brilliance, resilience, intention and compassion.
Visual art is inherently introspective and healing all on it’s own. If you’re not present or mindful with a visual piece in the moment, chances are it won’t turn out how you want it to. We work on building mindfulness skills and artistic skills in the moment, while also reflecting on our identities, experiences and social issues important to us. Together, we strengthen young people’s social analysis, self regulation skills and work to explore the world we want to create through our art.
The modern American school system is structured, especially in many purposefully underfunded urban schools, to be over-policed, underfunded and understaffed. Students often do not have the resources or encouragement to non-judgmentally explore themselves, their histories, ways to make changes they want to see in the world, and to truly just exist as they are, authentically without pressure to conform or achieve.
Lately I have been really inspired by the work of Dr. Bettina Love, on abolitionist teaching. Dr. Love presents this idea of abolishing the school system as it currently exists, because the way it’s currently set up does so much to rob students (especially Black, Brown, Indigenous, gender non-conforming, trans, queer students and students with disabilities) of their potential. I have been thinking a lot about her research, writing and ways to protect and give free space to the spirits and intellects of the young people I work with. I also have drawn a lot from the writing of adrienne maree brown and Christopher Emdin, about movement work and education. I’ve also read a lot and have attended training on restorative justice, trauma informed facilitation and mindfulness. Those all impact me so deeply and are well researched and evidence informed in an academic sense, but I would say the lived experience and expertise of other activist educators and movement leaders has fueled my work the most.
In my observation, giving young people (and even adults) a space to truly come as they are, bring their whole selves, be honest about how they feel, what’s coming up for them, and not policing their expression or behavior has generated authentic expression, empowerment, built real community and helped them become equipped to lead social justice work in their own lives and communities.
~ Tyler Keegan Grigsby
FLY BY LIGHT ~ YOUTH HIGHLIGHT ~ ARTISTIC EXPRESSION
In honor of our #20Stories20Years project we’re highlighting two FLY BY LIGHT youth that exemplify each pillar. Fly By Light is an arts-based program in which most sessions include a form of artistic expression. This can take the form of music, spoken word, writing, visual arts, and so much more. We are strong believers that the arts can be utilized as a tool for self-expression, global understanding, and healing. We strive to nurture students’ abilities to express themselves artistically rather than through violence. Our two, ARTISTIC EXPRESSION featured youth are SAMARIA ANDERSON& DANIYAH JAZEL.
I’m 16 years old and though originally from DC, I recently moved to North Carolina. Before moving, I attended Eastern HS. Now I’m in the 11th grade attending Mallard Creek HS. I plan to go to college and study psychology. In life, I want to be a professional, known songwriter. I express myself through music specifically Rap. I’ve been writing since 5th grade but it became serious in 9th grade when I experienced heartbreak for the first time. There really is no overall message that I am trying to share; I am just trying to be relatable to the people I can relate to, I am just being myself and in that process I hope I can teach a little bit of something to some people. Fly By Light encouraged me to not censor myself or my art and to write how I feel. In ninth grade Ms. Princess always came by in Advisory class every Monday and Wednesday, so I decided to check out the program. I learned taking care of myself mentally is just as important as taking care of myself physically. I honestly feel honored that I have been chosen to represent artistic expression.
You can find most of my music on my Instagram page.
“Samaria exemplifies artistic expression because she takes initiative. She is an original composer, she cares deeply about the community, she writes to uplift; she’s a true artist. She finishes what she starts. She has shot several videos. She’s an exemplary student and she’s very open and vulnerable when it comes to social-emotional lyrics. She’s very self-aware and she seeks to learn more about herself. She comes from a background of a musical family following in the footsteps of her mother who is also a rapper. She’s not afraid to be herself knowing that she is unique and in a class by herself. She still pushes through despite being in a small group. She’s very committed and reliable. Samaria exemplifies what FBL represents in it’s highest form of artistic expression: she raps, she sings, she writes poetry and she does it with a message. Samaria also has attended more meetings than most of my other FBL students and is always ready for artistic exposure. Make sure to check out Samaria’s acting chops in my music video MISS INTENTION (Story #11) ” ~ FBL Facilitator Princess Best
I’m 19 years old, and from Washington, DC and I currently go to school in Rochester, NYC, now at Nazareth College as a sophomore. While in HS in DC, I attended School Without Walls. FLY BY LIGHT supported me in my artistry by definitely helping me find my voice. Normally I kept poetry to myself because I was always performing for other people. Poetry was the one thing I only had for me. When I got to Fly By Light I realized this can still be for me, but I found my words were too powerful to just be kept for me, because someone could be going through the same things and use my words to make a change. Especially the piece I wrote about teen drug and alcohol abuse, that’s when I was more vulnerable in my own work and incorporated poetry into my music. One of my inspirations is Jill Scott and she does that a lot. In my track on Love Therapy, “2am Questions,” I incorporated a little bit of poetry. I wanted to break down the stigma around therapy, and I wanted to let the world know that it’s okay to seek help. My therapy is my music and my words, FBL has given me the permission, comfortability and strength to use my voice and know at the end of the day that my voice might help someone else. A key thing I learned in Fly By Light is definitely taking time for myself. Understanding my energy and connection to my environment, I think I’m better at reading my own energies and other people’s. When I recognize bad energy from a situation or person, I’m able to remove myself from it. That’s helped me be more comfortable in the spaces I’m in.
My dreams are sticking to the goals I already have for myself, one of which is to open a dance studio in the DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia region) for young girls, providing them with all the materials/dance shoes/clothing that they need and all the necessary tools they need to get into professional dance, musical theater and/or acting. Broadway, of course, is on my radar, as is being a recording artist, and using that talent to give back to my community. I share my artistic expression through my music, such as my album “Love Therapy” being out on streaming platforms now. I perform in productions at my college, and was also very involved with high school, community, and local professional theatre productions. I have done a lot of showcases with Fly By Light as well. For the immediate future, my plans are, in the next year or two, releasing another album, I have thought about a Christmas album, another project and/or some singles. I also want to get more connected, more out there as an artist, with more shows, bookings and earning money through my side hustles such as doing makeup and hair.
I am honored to represent artistic expression. I’m happy and love Fly By Light. Go Fly By Light! It is nice to be recognized, because I wouldn’t be the artist I am now without Fly By Light. Be yourself, it is okay to feel things, positive or negative. Embrace whatever it is you feel, and it’s okay to feel pain and to hurt as long as you don’t allow that pain to consume you. Don’t rush the healing process, you won’t feel better overnight. Be okay with the hurt you feel, and know the sun will shine another day, and be patient with yourself. If something isn’t right, don’t be afraid to change the people around you. Put yourself first.
“Daniyah is a shining example of artistry, commitment to making the world a better place, inspiring others to know their worth and have healthy relationships. She is serious about her artistry and creative vision, and is eager to share it with the world. When she was in our group, she always eagerly welcomed new students and encouraged them to take calculated artistic risks. Now that she’s in college, she’s pursuing a BFA in Musical Theatre, and has released a full length album called Love Therapy by Daniyah Jezel, which is out on Spotify and other streaming sites.” ~ FBL Facilitator Tyler Keegan Grigsby