The Video Brigade mentors youth in creating culturally centered TV

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If, as the adage goes, it truly takes a village to raise a child, The Video Brigade (TVB) has what it takes. In Minneapolis, seasoned professionals educate youngsters in that most pervasive medium: video. Housed at the Broadway School, 1250 W. Broadway Ave., The Video Brigade, in its second year, is a 15-week video production program for youngsters ages 12 to 18. Investing their expertise is an impressive roster headed by TVB founder Michael Chaney, who, among other accomplishments, is a camera operator at KMSP-TV (FOX 9). He co-authored a proposal to COMPAS last June with fellow mentors Rachel Dykoski, Zack Metoyer and Willie Tongrit Green.

Endra Young’s background includes having been a production technician for WHBQ-TV/FOX 13 News in Memphis, TN. “I became involved with The Video Brigade,” she states, “because I recognized that the project would foster skills in North Minneapolis youth that they may otherwise not have the opportunity to gain. [It] also allows me [to be] involved with the community and to give back.” Young was recruited by a member of TVB’s advisory board and is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota.

Young goes on to say, “Most rewarding is helping students consider a career opportunity they may not have considered before. Imparting skills and knowledge I’ve gained in the media industry, the students [gain] a realistic preview of how competitive and how fun this industry can be. The students retain information and showcase stronger skills every week.”

Participants, whether their goal is to be on-camera or behind it, learn all aspects of video production, from rolling cable to conducting on-air interviews with an extensive course of hands-on learning in between.

Significantly, there’s a cultural component in the program, about which Chaney, a community activist who inaugurated the Twin Cities annual Juneteenth
Celebration, is decidedly emphatic: “[TVB] is a unique way to engage our youth in the value of education. It exposes them to leaders/elders of the community.
It makes them shareholders in their future. It gives them voice and a vehicle to share their visions, hopes, ideas, and aspirations.”

He notes, “The centerpiece of the course is a series of videos produced entitled The Honor Society. The guests are those who make a difference [in the community].” It gives students the invaluable opportunity to dialogue in the studio under broadcast conditions with elders of considerable consequence. The Honor Society interviewees have included historian, scholar and griot Mahmoud El-Kati, WCCO-TV producer Sonja Goins and actor-playwright Joe Minjares.

Willie Tongrit Green of Green Cultural Communities adds, “Overall, participants are taught how to be a cultural artist, not just [be] a skilled technical artist. [They are] studying the contributions of cultural artist in the past and present time, getting a sense of their responsibility as cultural artist to make sure their work has a positive effect on our community.”

The effort has borne fruit. Gerald, 15, states, “We do libation [a cultural ritual of pouring water] at The Video Brigade to show that we are thankful and willing to take the path that our elders and ancestors paved for us.”

Audrianna, 13, says ”When I first came here, I felt welcomed and nervous. Everybody said ‘Hi’ and greeted me during the libation. [TVB] does libations to ‘culturalize’ us in a way that welcomes and comforts people.”

Juan-Ita, 17, comments, “The cultural aspect is important to pick up where our ancestors left off in society. Libation brings people together and makes us feel as one united to welcome everyone and to remember what our ancestors did for us.

“I try to not let the negative images in media affect me because that can change people into what they don’t want to be,” he adds. “The positive aspects do impact me and make me want to help someone in whatever way I can.”

Cari Fealy works at the University of St. Thomas, specifically with students who live and work in the residence halls. Bringing his facility for relating to youth to TVB, he attests, “What I value about working with the students involved in The Video Brigade is watching [them] explore their passions. I have enjoyed watching them grow confident as they learn more about cultural communication and traditions. They are not the same kids that came through the doors 13 weeks ago.”

There’s no “dumbing down” to reach TVB students. The subject matter they deal with encompasses health, the environment, politics, society, religion and more. Upon completion, students receive a copy of their work and a certificate of accomplishment. At that point, a vast source of opportunity — from Facebook to YouTube and more — awaits.

Ultimately, this is a nurturing forum that could foster the next Tony Brown or Gwen Ifill.

For more information about The Video Brigade, call 612-366-2171 or go to http://videobrigade.org.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to dhobbes@spokesman-re corder.com.

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