Jamaica Youth Theatre to enliven session on violence

picture of Jamaican youth on stage

The second annual talk in the Alexander F. Chamberlain Speaker Series will feature members of the Jamaica Youth Theatre (JYT) and include poetry, drama and video presentations, as well as a panel discussion on how the arts can help address violence in young people’s lives.

“Youth, Consciousness and the Arts: A Jamaican Perspective”, hosted by York University’s Children’s Studies Program will take place Jan. 18 at 5:30pm at 137 Ross South, Keele campus. An informal Children’s Studies reception will follow the talk at 6:30pm in The Renaissance Room, 001 Vanier A scene from Pickney Dem a Dry performed by Jamaica Youth TheatreCollege. Admission is free and everyone is welcome to attend.

A scene from Pickney Dem a Dry performed by Jamaica Youth Theatre

Jamaica Youth Theatre consists of the best youth actors from across Jamaica. JYT has performed extensively in the Caribbean and Europe, and in 2007 it received the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for excellence in Arts and Culture from the Government of Jamaica.

Presenters from JYT will include Carolyn Allen, who currently lectures in Caribbean literature at the University of the West Indies (Mona) and the School of Drama, Edna Manley College for the Visual & Performing Arts; Randy McLaren, a dub/spoken-word poet, youth leader, creative activist and president of JYT; and Andrew Grant and Franki-Lee Franklin, students of Jamaica’s University of Technology and members of JYT.

Randy McLaren singingRandy McLaren

Allen, a director for JYT, will present a short video of JYT’s production of Pickney Dem a Dry, which is part of Graffiti, a production presented at the Contacting the World Festival in the United Kingdom. She will explain how this short, moving performance was created and has been used in various contexts since. McLaren, a Jamaica youth ambassador for education and executive director of Graffiti Performing Arts 4Change, will perform his spoken-word poem “Armadale: Children on Fire” with vocal backup from other JYT members. All the presenters will take part in a panel discussion on uses of the arts in addressing issues of violence among young people.

“We are thrilled to have Jamaica Youth Theatre present as part of the Alexander F. Chamberlain Speaker Series,” says Professor Peter Cumming, coordinator of York’s Children’s Studies Program. “Our program focuses on the diversity of experiences of children and youth, and hearing directly from Jamaican youth and adults their perspectives on the role of the arts in addressing violence in young people’s lives will bring invaluable insight to our students, faculty and other members of the York community.”

Franki-Lee Franklin PerformingFranki-Lee Franklin

Youth and adult community leaders from Kingston and Woodside, Jamaica, are taking part in a series of workshops and arts presentations with Toronto youth for one week in January as part of Youth and Community Development in Canada and Jamaica: A Transnational Approach to Youth Violence, which is part of “Project Groundings”, a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada-funded research partnership.

“The current collaboration with the Children’s Studies Program is one of the exciting aspects of doing this kind of research,” says Professor Andrea Davis, deputy director of York’s Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean (CERLAC) and the partnership’s principal investigator. “The level of engagement between Toronto and Jamaican youth and their willingness to collaborate across their respective cultural and experiential boundaries speak to the importance of the research and the wealth of possibilities it might unveil.”

Other events planned for the week include a photo exhibit and performance showcase at Beaver Hall Gallery, Friday, Jan. 20 at 29 McCaul St. at 7pm, and a youth forum at the Ontario College of Art & Design University on Saturday, Jan. 21.

For more information about the Alexander F. Chamberlain Speaker Series, contact the Children’s Studies Program at lapschst@yorku.ca .