Local youth voice perspectives on social equity through art

United Way partners with MU, local agencies to provide afterschool art programs

Over the course of the past semester, Heart of Missouri United Way partnered with several other organizations to conduct a pilot program called BackTALK. The program was created to allow local youth to share their perspectives on diversity, inclusion and equity through various types of art.

On May 20, Heart of Missouri United Way participated in the second annual Rock the Community event at Stephen’s Lake Park, and the projects from the BackTALK program were an exciting addition to this event. The youth showcased photos, paintings, spoken word poetry and dance routines.

“This event provided an opportunity for youth to increase awareness that they can use art to self-express,” said Rachel Finch, continuous improvement director at United Way and co-developer of BackTALK. “It was also an opportunity for community members to increase awareness of youth perspectives on social issues they care about in the community.”

BackTALK included two afterschool programs for middle and high school students. PhotoVoice offered middle schoolers a weekly photography workshop using cameras they were able to keep. The students were encouraged to take pictures to show their perspective of the community. 

“Our goal was to allow youth to show off perspectives of the community, and empower the community to see if change could come from these photos,” said Megan Corbin at Central Missouri Community Action and PhotoVoice.

Artivism was a similar program for high school students, who explored self- expression through spoken word poetry, and a variety of dance styles, including hip hop, tap and break dancing. Being able to showcase the BackTALK program at the Rock the Community event was a great way for youth to interact with the community.

“The goal was to engage young people through art, so they felt they could speak up about issues in the community, good and bad,” said Alyssa Liles-Amponsah, K-12 director of the Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at the University of Missouri. “[Through this event] we wanted to show that our division is invested and wants to make a meaningful impact on the community.”

BackTALK was a collaborative effort between the MU Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity; Central Missouri Community Action; MU Family Impact Center; City of Columbia, Missouri Employers Mutual; Jabberwocky Studios; United Way; and Rock the Community.

Click here to view the Rock the Community 2017 photo album.


Get our newsletter!