Making sense of the world is challenging for adults—and even more so for youths. Events and social conditions affect kids, but they often lack the voice and means to express their views.
She told NewsOne that her goal is to provide students with “a space to express themselves and shine a light on social issues impacting their lives.”
The subject matter in James’ arts activism class centers on involvement in issues that affect the Columbia community from the perspective of the youths. Some of the issues the students have chosen to tackle so far include bullying and hunger.[URISP id=15524]
James said childhood hunger is a problem in South Carolina that impacts scores of Columbia residents in a very personal way. And bullying is a situation that students, unfortunately, encounter all too often, that her kids needed to confront.
“It’s about addressing the issue and spreading awareness through their art and their talent, which is drama,” she said.
The acting coach admires the work of Anna Deavere Smith, the actress and playwright who recently took on the school-to-prison pipeline issue. One of
her takeaways from reading Smith’s book, Letters to a Young Artist, is that acting is about building bridges between the actor, character, and audience.
“I want the audience to connect to the characters that the youth create,” said James, who’s clearly passionate about her craft. “I want the audience to understand situations from their point of view. By putting on the child’s shoe, it encourages empathy from the audience.”
Her inaugural class consisted of Black girls, who tend to be drawn to acting more than Black boys. The girls are typically more receptive to expressing their feelings. Boys, on the other hand, open up “once they see the big picture, and they become eager to express themselves.”
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