Teens put talents to use raising awareness about issues they care about

sbarr@newsobserver.comJuly 5, 2013 

A Malkuta skit from earlier this year featured, left to right, Louis Williams, Ebiem Nwaebiem, Carrie Sifford, Nate Myers, Breann Jackson, Katie Dibenedetto, Krystal Smith and Isiah Thompson.

COURTESY OF NATE MYERS

— Teenagers at the Wake County Boys and Girls Club teen center have found a way to put their artistic talents to use, with the hope of helping others along the way.

The group is called Malkuta, an Aramaic word that means “empowerment from within.” The teens dance, sing, write poetry, act and more as part of their involvement with the group.

“As long it keeps you out of trouble and you’re making a positive movement within your own life, it works within Malkuta,” said Louis Williams, 19, a member of the group.

The group members make videos showcasing their work and upload them to a blog, so that they can spread the word about what they’re doing and the issues they care about.

The teens have performed at a conference for the North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs, created a public service announcement for a non-profit about teen dating violence awareness, and are raising funds this summer to help bring a sick child in Nigeria to the U.S. for surgery.

“The biggest thing is for them not only to express themselves but to have that platform where they can showcase who they are and then eventually use that as a powerful way to make change,” said Nate Myers, a youth development coordinator at the teen club.

Myers and Williams first thought of starting a group like Malkuta more than a year ago, and after refining the idea, the group has been up and running for about six months.

Myers said the teens have done an excellent job of finding new projects to explore and supporting one another’s interests.

“They really do a good job of keeping it going and pushing,” he said.

Carrie Sifford, 16, has long been a ballet dancer, but as part of Malkuta she’s had exposure to new forms of dance and other activities, she said. The more she experiences, the more she wants to continue participating.

“Once you really get into it, you’ll want to come here and do it more,” she said.

Chris Cook, the teen center’s director, said the center has had dance or performance groups before but never one that has allowed so many teens with so many different talents to participate.

From parents to staff members to teens who come to the center to play basketball, everyone has noticed the good work the group is doing, he said.

Lynda Morgan, whose son is part of Malkuta, volunteers regularly with the group. She said that one of the benefits of the program is that it gives the teens an avenue to be creative without feeling they need to be perfect.

“The difference with this program is that they get to express themselves without feeling like they’re going to get it wrong,” she said.

One of the group’s most recent projects has been a series of flash mobs. They show up unexpectedly and perform a carefully choreographed, high-energy dance performance in the middle of the city.

Krystal Smith, 16, who has been part of the flash mobs, said that’s not something she would have done before. But with the support of the others in Malkuta, she now feels she can share her talents more widely.

“I just opened up more,” she said.

For more information, visit www.malkutaproject.blogspot.com.

 

Barr: 919-836-4952

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