Sankofa Fine Art Plus: Plan to Address Teen Violence

Robin Robinson, graphite on charcoal paper.

In 2024 one of the major issues facing Cleveland is youth violence. According to the prosecutor’s office, 41 youths faced murder charges in 2023, and that number is up from 2022. Forty-one lives are too many to lose to senseless preventable violence.

In 2015 Glenville-based Sankofa Fine Art Plus initiated Urban Renaissance with heART, a community engagement public art program. This program was created because of the despair and neighborhood upheaval over the rise of police killings of unarmed Black people televised nationally and locally. As a resident of Glenville and mother of four young Black men, I was personally affected by this frustration and lack of a voice. But I had a platform for change.

As an artist and art therapist, I have devoted the past decade to listening to the voices of the otherwise voiceless. I have attempted to help amplify those voices by bringing those affected entities together in collaborative communications—addressing the hard social issues through the healing power of art.

Our Lives Matter, mural by Gary Williams and Robin Robinson.

Art teaches conflict resolution and violence prevention to teens. It focuses on developmental factors, and the ways art can help them develop skills for peaceful program solving.

Art activities have the capacity to deepen comprehension of underlying principles commonly presented in conflict resolution/violence prevention programs, such as perspective taking, negotiation, effective communication, self-expression, decision making and self-reflection. Likewise, involvement in art-related projects can provide opportunities for at-risk youth to practice creative problem solving, group interaction, critical thinking, and delayed gratification.

This year Sankofa Fine Art Plus is expanding our community-based, in-school workshops and marketing opportunities. Within these workshops, art production and analysis will be used to help teach violence prevention and enhance conflict resolution skills. Workshops are designed so that participants apply these skills while creating a group-produced public art project, their artwork advocating for peace and collaboration. In return this artwork will be used to educate peers about nonviolence.

We also plan to address the economic need for these disadvantaged (boredom-ridden) teens. We intend to develop an entrepreneur T-shirt-printing program. They will be trained in graphic design and screen-printing practices, and operate their own boutique and sell their own product.

We are working diligently on these initiatives and although they are in the planning stages, we already have established several valued community partners.

11401 Saint Clair Avenue

Cleveland, Ohio 44108

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