#FilmMajorFriday: The Merze Tate Explorers Club Is Empowering Girls Through Writing, Photography, and Videography

Last week, I had the opportunity to be the personal videographer and videographer instructor for the Merze Tate Travel Writers Club‘s 2016 Tate-Stone Travel Writers Academy.  IMG_0041The Academy is a program for 4th-12th graders, and is a 6-day residential academy on Kalamazoo College’s campus. The program provides travel opportunities and interaction with women where they work while serving as reporters to capture the adventures through writing, photography, and videography for the annual Girls Can! Magazine. The program was created by Sonya Bernard-Hollins.

I must say, it was one the greatest and most rewarding experiences that I’ve had to date. It was an amazing feeling being around so many girls that were as passionate about traveling and media just as much as I am, and girls who really wanted to advance their skills in writing, photography, and my personal favorite, videography.

IMG_0003Throughout the week, I filmed the events that took place throughout the week. We went to the Whirlpool headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan where the girls had the opportunity to meet and interview the CEO. We participated in Youth Day at Bible Baptist Church as part of the Black Arts and Cultural Center’s 2016 Black Arts Festival.  Later in the week, we traveled to Detroit, Michigan and went to the Motown Museum and ate dinner on the Detroit Princess River Boat. We ended the week by traveling to Niagara Falls, Canada where we were able to take a tour and ride the boat through the Falls!

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My favorite part about the Academy was just simply being a positive influence and that person the girls could look up to not just as a videographer, but a mentor as well.IMG_0110 Representation matters, and when you see someone who looks like you, doing what you want to do, and desire to be like, it gives you all the more reason to chase your dreams. If she can do it, so can I.

I feel so blessed to have been a part of this fantastic week with girls who are inspired and passionate about traveling, writing, and media. I wish I was a part of a program like this growing up. I think that it’s incredible that these girls are gaining these experiences at such a young age. We need more programs like this that give children the opportunity to learn, explore, and see the world. There’s so much out there and if more children were given opportunities like this, I know that it would give them more hope and motivation to work hard, achieve their greatest aspirations, and reach heights higher than they could ever imagine.

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NO GMOs

Mark your calendar, folks! The very talented Alfield Reeves and Keyon Lovett will be having their first art exhibition collaboration at the Black Arts and Cultural Center as a part of Art Hop in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The project is entitled, “NO GMOs.”IMG_4707

“We live in a society that is losing its authenticity, so much that we have to add to ourselves instead of being who we are at the core and who God created us to be. NO GMOs is aimed to highlight that authenticity in its rarest form.”

Reeves, with his gift of photography, will be highlighting his #MelaninatedNaturals series, which focuses on encapsulating chocolate ladies of all shades and their natural hair.FullSizeRender

“My project is entitled #MelaninatedNaturals. It entails individual and group portraits of black women highlighting all their eclectic shades of skin, natural hair styles, and an array fashion senses,” Reeves explained.

Keyon, with his gift of illustration, will be highlighting his #BlackCinema Series, which takes viewers down memory lane by revisiting movies that would be considered staples in the African American community, adding a twist that you — the viewer — will have to point out.

“I just thought it would be cool to recreate some of the iconic scenes from the films. Then I started to make connections to us as black people,” Lovett said.

Authenticity is the core of the two projects. NO GMOs means nothing artificial. The artwork that Reeves and Lovett created identifies the realness of black essence and black culture.

When asked what his favorite part of the project was, Alfield said, “I’ve always been someone that loves the process and seeing the transformation of things. So in saying that, my favorite part is the process of getting the ladies together for each photo session, their interactions with each-other, the positive vibes, and of course going through the portraits sorting and editing, and seeing the transformation while being amazed at the final result.”

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Reeves continued, “I wouldn’t say I have a least favorite part, but probably the most difficult part will be selecting the ones that will be in the exhibit while trying not people please, but instead choosing the ones that are the most excellent and fully portray my idea.”

Similar to Reeves, Lovett explained that his favorite part is always creating, and that his least favorite part “will probably be selecting which pieces make the cut.”

Though the creative process is the most fascinating and exciting part about this collaboration, it can get a bit difficult at times. Reeves mentioned that there was an influxFullSizeRender 4.jpg of ladies interested when he put the project idea out there, so having to plan each group session and making time to select and edit the pictures was a bit tedious.

Similarly, Lovett added, “The process has been exciting. Al and I have had the ability to live with each other and with that we’ve been able to understand how we think creatively. His organization meets my spontaneity.”

For additional information about the event such as dates, times, and social media followings, check out the Eventbrite link!

Oh, and it’s FREE! So if you love art and want to support this amazing collaborative project, be sure to check out the exhibit September 9th!