War, pollution, boys v. girls: You name it, teen videos address it


Kenny Bankhead had always wanted to be on or behind the camera, and Bankhead is suited for both, with his crooked smile and charismatic presence. Last summer Bankhead’s probation officer told him about a summer program that teaches youth how to make documentaries and public service announcements. Bankhead, who was entering his senior year at Highland Senior High School in St. Paul, was intrigued. Nine months later on March 29, he sat on a panel and joked with the audience at the Weisman Art Museum’s screening of videos made by teens.

Represent! Civic Videos by Area Youth

Weisman Art Museum
Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN)
Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the U of M
Hope Community, Minneapolis
Neighborhood Learning Communities, St. Paul, West Side
• St. Mathews School
• Guadalupe Alternative Programs
• West Side Youth Guides

Video Titles and Participants:

Anders Lee,
Teonna Marshall
Malikah Bonner

Guadalupe Alternative Programs
Enchante Bolden
Latasha Simpson
Melvina McKinley
Prince Butler
Rick Doten
Isiah Bailey,
Marquell Crenshaw
Drevon Crenshaw
Donta Simpson
Bernard Poston

The West Side’s Stand on Iraq
Tyler James Michienzi
Josue Grassi Cueto

Nora Martin
Rachel Graf
Corinn Burchill-Riley

Youth Space
James Updyke

My Mom’s Story
Andrew Lonnes

In Community
Hanna Graf
Alice Martin
Sophie Seaberg-Wood
Josue Grassi-Cueto

Absent Fathers PSA
Kenny Bankhead
Dedrian Davis
Ntsuab Yang
Carlos Fargosa-Garcia

Teen Depression PSA
Jairo Muñoz
Bao Yang
Daryll Berg

Boys vs. Girls
Ben Plante
Nathun Wenner
Jessica Morales
Monique Roquemore
Leticia Roquemore
Alexis Kramer
Cierra Mendez
Shelby Rosario
Julian Espinosa
Silvia Owens

Video Politics
Alyshia Jackson
Marquell Ford-Billups
Omer Farooq
Christopher Johnson
Christian Pitts
Za’Asia Hunter

Youth Staff:
Danielle Peterson
Kong Her
Peter Kirschmann
Andrea Lehmann
Joyce Strand
Sherine Crooms

To view a sampling of videos, click here.

Sitting on the panel, Bankhead was keenly aware of the cameras and posed to make sure photographers got a good shot while he comfortably discussed filmmaking. His friend, Anders Lee, a sixteen-year-old at St. Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts, was just as aware of the cameras as he posed with Bankhead. Together, Lee and Bankhead learned to shoot and edit documentaries at Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) last summer. They liked making videos so much that they continued to participate in the program throughout the school year.

They got a chance to show their videos at the Weisman film screening, Represent! Civic Videos of Area Youth, where more than two hundred people gathered to watch twelve short videos. The videos were made by more than forty pre-teens and teens from youth programs in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

When the Weisman chose “citizenship” as its theme, its Youth Programs Coordinator, Judi Petkau, reached out to community groups. Petkau said she wanted to create youth programming that related to the museum’s annual theme, but she also hoped to tie the project to the work of local photographer Paul Shambroom, whose current exhibit, “Picturing Power,” explores themes of military and industrial power.

To view a sampling of videos, click here.

Joyce Strand, who worked with the youth groups on St. Paul’s West Side, said the real exploration of power occurred in the field. The most interesting thing about the process, Strand said, “was the shift in power when kids have the opportunity to ask adults questions, instead of adults asking kids to do something.” This is not something the youth generally get to do. Strand added, “We were doing a lot of interviews in the field and it seems like that was the point the kids got really engaged.”

Before the youth groups got really into the videos, though, they had to pick a topic. This proved difficult for many youth, who discussed the process on the panel following the screening. When asked about their reactions to seeing all the videos together, a junior high student from the West Side Youth Guides, whose video highlighted pollution on the West Side, responded, “it was interesting to see what everyone’s issues are. They’re all really different.”

To view a sampling of videos, click here.

Indeed they are. Watching the videos was like taking a slice of life from disparate teen worlds in the Twin Cities. Some tackled frequently discussed themes in media, like depictions of women in music videos, pollution, and the war in Iraq. Then there were the videos about topics pundits usually don’t mull over in the press: what’s it like to clown around at band practice? And what’s the difference between boys and girls from a junior high student’s perspective?

One clip, Video Politics, examined women’s roles in popular music videos. Alyshia Jackson said it took the group from Hope Community in Minneapolis a while to pick the topic. “We thought about a lot of things, like prostitution, pollution, uniforms, and the driving age,” Jackson said. After picking the theme she thought about what she wanted the audience to get from her video. “I wanted to get people thinking and I want them to know that not all black women have to be half naked in videos.”

To view a sampling of videos, click here.

Across the river, Anders Lee and other youth at SPNN created a short clip about racial stereotypes of African American women. “The two women I was working with said racial stereotypes was something they dealt with all the time,” said Lee, who is white. “It’s not really something I can relate to, but it seemed really important to them, so we chose that topic.”

As Lee discussed his video, Bankhead, who is African American, interjected to explain something about Lee, “Even if he’s white, he understands where our race is coming from.”

To view a sampling of videos, click here.

Bankhead and his group created a public service announcement, Absent Fathers, that echoed a deeply personal experience. “I wanted everyone to know,” Bankhead said, “that every kid needs a father.”

Danielle Peterson, who works at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Democracy and Citizenship, worked closely with the Hope Community Group. She said that video is a powerful medium for youth to tell their stories. “I’ve been working with youth programs for five years now, and it’s taken me a long time to realize that the youth always want to do videos,” Peterson said. “So we should support that and uplift it.”

Bankhead agrees. The best part of the film screening and process leading up to it, he said, is “being in an environment where I’m a filmmaker. It’s something like a dream come true.”

Will Kenny and Anders continue to make videos? “Definitely.”

To view a sampling of videos, click here.