A blog series featuring Kuumba Lynx
AS I AM Creatives
Feature: Boluwatife Ojetunde (@melaninmonbo)
Interviewer: Ava Jackson
This blog series is an opportunity to get to know some of the youth engaging with AS I AM. The AS I AM initiative supports 18+ year creatives in their professional and artistic development. This week we profile Boluwatife Ojetunde, a sophomore at Illinois State University majoring in Human Development. Boluwatife or popularly known as “Bolu” is a poet and dancer, with a strong interest in fashion. Bolu was introduced to the AS I AM initiative through the Kuumba Lynx summer program, Youth on Youth (YOY 2017). As a selected YOY Facilitator, she participated in a 75 hour liberatory learning professional development training, facilitated six weeks of morning Critical Humanities workshops with youth 8-16 years old, and co-facilitated an afternoon Theater Arts Lab, Melanin Voices.
How would you describe Kuumba Lynx’ AS I AM initiative?
AS I AM gives room not only for young adults to find a sense of self within the creative world. A lot of people don’t know how to express themselves verbally, a lot of people haven’t been given their room before but it ( AS I AM) definitely has allowed me to see not only the change in myself in terms of expression but also the change in the youth I was mentoring and the other mentors.
So what does it mean to you that you were selected as an AS I AM Core Creative last year?
It meant a lot. The experience definitely changed my life, gave me a strong consistent outlet, gave me a new light, a new opportunity not only in terms of expression but to also be a part of something bigger than myself. So knowing that I was helping the end result it was very significant and very life changing.
When they asked you to join, were you even considering doing something like this? What led you to decide to do something like this?
One of the mentors actually, we met 2 years ago and she threw it out there for me and I was like Kuumba Lynx? That sounds pretty cool and she explained it to me, so I’m like why not? It wasn’t on my mind to do something like Youth On Youth like I never really considered it because I didn’t know how it was set up, I didn’t know from the outside looking in.
So what are some of your professional goals in AS I AM?
Professionally I just want to continue expanding my craft on my journey. I want to be able to bring others, younger than me older than me and just see people, realizing their true potentials and tapping into that. Not only tapping into it but continuing the cycle, I just want to see a new generation being formed where people aren’t afraid to express their creative sides and share that with the next generation and so on.
What artistic and or professionals goals have you set for yourself as an AS I AM Creative?
I’m actually trying to start a fashion blog so I can incorporate my poetry and my love of fashion. I can include some of the youth and some of the other AS I AM Creatives because they can dress, –creative people can dress! So I just want to showcase different lifestyles through clothing and like throw my poetry in a few captions and then like throw a few dance videos. So I’m like in the works of a project that should be pretty dope.
Can you tell me about your experience in AS I AM this summer as a Youth On Youth Facilitator?
Before we could even become Youth on Youth Facilitators, we had to a 10-day intensive training. Each day (the KL Founders) would host 2-3 professional educators, artists and or community organizers to facilitate learning of various things. So there were some days we learned about Graffiti, some days we learned about how to support rape survivors or somebody who has been through domestic violence, stuff like that. So we had to do a lot of deep digging, it wasn’t no surface levels stuff, literally like… not necessarily being lectured but like, being informed and they provided us various resources where for some of them we felt like wow we might not even need these but there are some cases where you never know what a youth comes from or needs. We went through a lot of trainings and did the workshops ourselves, went also recruited youth by going to do different elementary schools. Being an Arts Facilitator with Youth On Youth, it’s literally all these people coming to you as you are and you have to accept that and learn how to not only take accountability for how you are but how the next person might be. Learning how to be present in that was very intense, like I had a lot of days where I was like going through some stuff, but because I made that commitment I just had to be present.
Can you describe your AS I AM experience traveling to Cuba?
Wow. Traveling to Cuba was definitely a very life changing experience. When I first got back, I was hoping no one would really expect me to go into detail or ask “How was Cuba?” because the only two answers I had were “life changing” and “liberating”. This was my first time leaving the country and I now have an understanding of why it’s so encouraged. I genuinely feel like I tapped into my higher self in Cuba. I wrote and reflected every day and rereading one of my entries, I noticed I mentioned how “in tune” I felt and how I didn’t want to lose this feeling. To this very day, I can relive and unplug from social media more easily in order to gain some of this feeling back, but it only goes so far without the genuine love and energy I felt on a consistent basis in Cuba. I DEFINITELY plan to go back; even live there for a few.
You mentioned you were planning to launch a fashion blog, can you tell us more about it?
I’ve actually launched it already and basically it’s a platform for my androgynous style, (a mixture of masculine and feminine energy), poetry, the unique style of others I know, dance etc. I’ve always desired some sort of site to have everything I dabble with in one area. I was inspired to make this blog more specific to fashion because growing up, my dressing aesthetic was always different from the typical “girl” and I think there is so much beauty in discovering and living in your own truth, even with the clothes you wear.
How has the Cuba experience shaped your artistic goals?
This experience gave me artistic clarity. It helped me shape new found ideas around my goals, such as launching this fashion blog, which includes poetry, blog/vlog posts , and eventually dance. Cuba helped me realize that as long as I am true to my multidimensional being, I can endlessly create art and continue to be a producer. It highlighted the arts in general and how much of an impact art really has on people. Being more intuitive ensures that I won’t bite ideas or stray from my creativity. Rather, I’ll be myself unapologetically and continue this journey or being an artist.
What do you hope to gain from the blog?
I hope to inspire and push others to quit fearing what people will think of them and embrace all aspects of themselves. For me personally, this is a method of really loving on and digging into myself. I used to be extremely cautious of what others will think of me and how I dress or behave, but as I learn about my identity, I realize that it’s all about MY beliefs and values. As I continue working on and building this blog, I hope I get more in touch with my feminine side and really find a balance. As a Libra, I believe balance is always key!
Is there a specific inspiring moment from when you were being exposed to all this Hip Hop Educator/ Facilitator skill
I want to say there was one day, part of our training, we had to do a rose and a thorn and it was so simple but just watching and seeing and really understanding that we all come from different places and coming together as a collective just watching everyone say their good and their bad in their last month and incorporating that into this recording we were doing to say why the AS I AM Initiative in general was important to us. So watching people take their backgrounds and like bring it back out in a new form of expression was really inspiring and it was a heartfelt moment. A lot of us cried.
What has been your most challenging moment in working towards the individual goals you set for yourself as an AS I AM Creative?
Probably dealing with a lot of different personalities has been challenging at some point, especially coming with my own…my little drama, my little issues. So having to mix that and still be present has been challenging to me, well has been challenging to me on some days. And there was a couple occasions where I came in and just wasn’t fully there but I had to remind myself of my commitments so it was pretty hard because I haven’t ever been that, I never been committed to something the way I was committed to that program.
Why do you think you had this commitment? What was it about this experience that led you to be there even when you didn’t want to be there?
I think because I could feel how much it was doing not only for myself but also for everyone around me. And it also was a big thing of accountability, like just knowing that I have committed and I was chosen, like again it was a selection there were so many other people that wanted to do this and I’m given the opportunity to do it so I’m going to give it my all and also just the love, the energy, that was something you didn’t want to miss out on. Even if you are having a bad day, you know that like I show up I’m going to have a better day.
What would you say to the young folks who would want to be part of either the Youth on Youth experience or participate in KL’s AS I AM initiative ? What can they learn from your journey?
I would say to be vulnerable, be open-minded, and remain present because those three things will take you a long way in this journey. Like just the vulnerability, from your vulnerability you tap into so many more people around you, the people you’re supposed to be watching, it will become less than a ‘you over your mentees’ and more of a mutual things where there is no levels. Being open-minded creates more room for opportunities
How has being selected as an AS I AM Creative and or having this specific Youth on Youth on teaching experience supported you?
For me, the fact it was beyond high school gave me more room to relate because I had people that were not only younger than me but also people my age in my group in some cases. It was less of a teacher-to-student thing and more of a we’re all students and we’re all learning from each other and we’re all gaining and pushing each other because even though I’m in a mentor position and you’re in a mentee position you can give me something I may not have and you can teach me something I may not know so it definitely made my experience more like the real world in a safe space.