Otieno Terry on Creative Justice

Photo: Tim Aguero

Creative Justice is 4Culture’s new arts-based alternative to incarceration for King County youth.

Singer-songwriter, producer, and teaching artist, Otieno Terry, led the 2nd project session of our inaugural year of programming. Otieno believes that music strongly influences the minds of young people and uses his art to inspire positivity, self-confidence, discipline, and healing. From March 23rd through June 10th, he worked with 12 teen participants twice per week as they discovered the history of music in America and their own creative voices through instrumentation, vocalization, and writing.

Otieno Terry, Creative Justice Mentor Artist, Session 2, 2015. Photo: Tim Aguero
Otieno Terry, Creative Justice Mentor Artist, Session 2, 2015. Photo: Tim Aguero

Creative Justice Session 2 was a beautiful experience. Encompassing a large spectrum of emotions, the participants had an opportunity to build relationships and community through conversations about society and their perception of reality. We explored world history from different perspectives, focusing on the black experience, the transition from being African to becoming American, and how it affects us today. We talked about the importance of knowing the past and understanding the power of expression and its influence, particularly through music and social media.

The first few weeks of the session were somewhat quiet and cool, and at times awkward, as most things are in the world of teenagers. However, slowly but surely, their wisdom, talent, and youthfulness began to seep into the space we created together, through conversation, collaboration and improvisation. I started to realize how much potential every single student had, and even their circumstances couldn’t put out the flame of hope and joy that continues to burn honestly and unapologetically within.

When they began to record their work, I found that although their youthful flame burns brightly, joyfully and even carelessly at times, their art reflected their complexities and profound awareness of the world they are a part of. Through their honest expression, I now further understand the power of vulnerability, integrity and persistence. They are living proof that hope is real, that love is real, and that there is a warrior that lives in each of us, ready to fight for what we truly believe in.

I am incredibly grateful and honored to have spent such precious time with these students and in service of Creative Justice. It has strengthened my faith in our community, and I look forward to seeing the beauty and greatness that they will bless the world with going forward.

– Otieno Terry

Otieno Terry, Creative Justice Mentor Artist, Session 2, 2015. Photo: Tim Aguero
Otieno Terry, Creative Justice Mentor Artist, Session 2, 2015. Photo: Tim Aguero