Oakland students honored at East Bay Youth Media Awards
on September 28, 2015
Striding quickly across the stage to the presenters’ podium, William Lu accepted the honorable mention prize at the East Bay Youth Media Awards on September 23 on behalf of his five-person team of student producers from Media Enterprise Alliance. With a nervous smile, and a gesture that drew audience laughs, the Life Academy High School senior gave thanks to his teacher and Media Enterprise Alliance for their support, and for giving him the opportunity to work with video editing software. “It’s been great,” he said, grasping the star-shaped award in his hands.
The East Bay Youth Media Awards is a new celebration and fundraiser honoring people between the ages of 13 and 25 who have made contributions to the media industry in print journalism, radio, video production and digital media. Mistress of Ceremonies Kari Hall of NBC News awarded six different groups and individuals with a small glass trophy for achievement in the mediums of nonfiction film, radio, multimedia, and social media.
Honorees were nominated by their peers and other professionals, and the majority of awardees were affiliated with a local youth media organization like Media Enterprise Alliance (MEA), a nonprofit that works in conjunction with KDOL, the OUSD’s television station, and provides media instruction for students in Oakland.
Lu was the illustrator in a group that was honored for its animated video on the effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) on urban youth. The video, a year-long project, was the fruit of an internship Lu held with MEA, an internship that, according to his co-producer Alex Martinez, was designed to strengthen students’ college applications, in addition to providing an after-school program for 11th and 12th grade students. Martinez, also a high school senior at Life Academy, said that this opportunity could give him the experience necessary for a career in music or media. “If I do become a music producer or anything like that, I want to come back to Oakland, and I want to find an Oakland talent, like, at least three new artists from Oakland,” said Martinez. “And make them big.”
At the auditorium at Preservation Park, the theme of “giving back” to Oakland threaded throughout the speeches of the ceremony’s presenters, from the KBLX radio host Nikki Thomas, resplendently dressed in a shimmery olive and gold outfit, to keynote speaker Kev Choice, an Oakland musician who told the youth honorees that “The story needs to be told by those who live it.”
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson envisioned and organized the event, which he said he hopes will become an annual tradition. Youth Radio is an organization, originally founded in Berkeley, that teaches youth to use digital media and technology, particularly for young people to present a youth perspective in the media. Carson had been familiar with Youth Radio “probably since its inception,” and he conceived the idea for the awards after seeing the effect that Youth Radio had on young people.
“I thought it was important to kind of start saying how do we fund it? How do we keep it going? How do we recognize it?” said Carson.
All the honorees focused their projects on social issues that either affected them personally or are issues within their communities. Dashawn Clinton and Demario Lewis, working with DetermiNation Media Group, won the Innovator Award for their piece Amor for Alex, a short film on the Bernal Heights shooting of Alex Nieto by a police officer in March, 2014.
Clinton noted the importance of the media in raising awareness about police use of force, saying that a friend of his had been killed by police. “And there was no press release at all,” said Clinton. “I was thinking, if I had the skills back then, then people would know about it. I know it’s not like bringing the person back, but I feel like it does offer—it does alleviate some pain.” He added that African American and Latino communities need to be a part of media production, that the stories of these groups have not been told or have been misrepresented in the mainstream media. “I guess that’s the reason why I do what I do,” said Clinton, “because I want to be in charge of our own media.”
To Martinez, the PTSD video he helped create had a special meaning as well. “I’ve seen a lot of things go down, things that a kid’s not supposed to see,” he said. “So it’s something I want to put out there. There are bad things in Oakland, but there’s also a good side about Oakland.”
Other winners included Serena Witherspoon from Berkeley City College for her blog on the importance of youth voting, Hang Rugg from Youth Radio for his radio piece on the experience of caring for his father after he suffered from a stroke, and the Youth Radio team of Mikey Prizmich, Luis Flores and Maya Escobar, who created a video on the consequences of growing up in a community with gun violence.
“Youth media is incredibly important, and gives young people something that they can be exposed to, a career, and understand that they can actually get paid and get a job, that they don’t have to go to a school in Piedmont or have money to pay for a $5,000 summer film camp to gain these skills,” said Jake Schoneker, program director for MEA and a former reporter for Oakland North. “That’s really what we’re all about, in offering that type of training and that world-class professional gear, equipment, and training to kids from Oakland, and kids that wouldn’t have access to them otherwise.”
Reflecting on his experience creating the PTSD video, Lu said that the process has been like a roller coaster ride, and that receiving the award felt refreshing. “I want to do something new,” said Lu. “I want to show the world what I can do next.”
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