On May 8th (Mother’s Day) Champaign-Urbana teens showcased their performance art works as part of a special “Echoes of Emmett” Mother’s Day tribute at the Orpheum Theater. The works were created at Echoes of Emmett workshops in collaboration with the Social Justice Action Committees (SJAC) of Central and Centennial High Schools and Shatterglass Films. SJAC is a small group of high school-aged student leaders who strive to facilitate a healthier school culture and climate through discussions on social justice.
“This effort has allowed C-U teens to express themselves creatively after learning the story of Emmett Till, the Chicago teenager whose brutal murder in Mississippi and his mother’s painful choice to publicize the tragedy sparked the Civil Rights movement. This story is just as important today as it was in the ‘50s and many of today’s youth find themselves drawing connections to Emmett Till’s story. The workshops allow student voices to be heard through the art they create,” said Director Luke Boyce of Shatterglass Films.
The two-dozen teens whose work will be performed first gathered in early April to learn more about the Emmett Till legacy from University of Illinois Associate Dean of the College of Media and Associate Professor of Journalism, Chris Benson. He and Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, co-authored the book The Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America. Afterward the teens broke into groups related to song, poetry, hip hop/rap, production and activism and created works with the assistance from professionals at Shatterglass Films as well as some of the most vibrant local artists, painters, performance artists, rappers, filmmakers, professors, teachers, African American historians and Black Lives Matter activists.
Lindsay Aikman, a Centennial High School English teacher, and Amy Ali, local art event coordinator, paired up with Shatterglass to spearhead the Echoes of Emmett project. “People underestimate the power of youth. Their voices are strong and they are looking for opportunities to take action and be heard. They need outlets for their emotions and it is up to us as mothers and members of this community to carry Mamie’s torch by providing the foundation to allow them to do so,” Aikman said.
According to Ali, “the youth have been involved in every effort of this project including not just their artistic contributions but also planning and organizing, seeking sponsorships, curating art pieces, and promoting the event, proving that when given the opportunity they will not only rise to the occasion but surpass expectations.”
This showcase was created to unite the diverse C-U community for a night of healing and learning through art, activism, music, faith and solidarity.
Examples of the teens’ work can be found:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/EchoesOfEmmett/
Video Album: https://vimeo.com/album/3909861