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"Life Through My Own Lens" Project Allows Black And Brown Syracuse Students To Tell Own Stories

Scott Willis

About a dozen Black and Brown Syracuse-area middle and high school students will be spending the next twelve weeks documenting their experiences on video for final, professionally produced stories. Their goal is to learn from those who haven’t had the opportunity or exposure.

The project is called “Life Through My Own Lens,” and it’s organized by 100 Black Men of Syracuse. President Drake Harrison says the teens met for the first time on Saturday, and they’re off to a rousing start.

“I don’t think they’ve realized that they’ve formed this bond, a kind of family, around this project. They’re bouncing ideas off one another. Although it’s deliberate, it’s organic at the same time,” he said.

He says for some, telling their stories might be therapeutic.

“I talked to one young man, and it’s interesting that he’s already forming in his head what kind of story he wants to tell. He said ‘I’ve been wanting to say this for some time.’ What we’re doing is providing him the means with which to do that,” Harrison said.

He says it’s a way for student so reintroduce themselves after a challenging year of learning remotely and spending limited time with friends.

“It hasn’t given them much of opportunity to say what they feel and what they see and what they’ve experienced. The stories can be about music, they can be about family, about friends, or even something that’s made up.”

He says they won’t dictate what stories to tell or how to tell them, knowing that some experiences may be raw.  When the project is complete, he hopes people see the untapped talent in Syracuse.

“They have probably some unique skills and talents that we’re totally unaware of and hopefully people will see that talent and offer opportunities beyond what we’re doing,” Harrison said. “I think when we see Black and brown kids a lot of times it’s a negative image, and I think there’s so many more positive images than the ones that we see.”

100 Black Men has enlisted a professional firm based in LA called Black Cub Productions, co-founded and led by two Syracuse University Newhouse School graduates.  They’ve developed the curriculum that teaches the students the skills to collect their footage and tell their stories.