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Six months ago, talk of the recession would have barely registered with 13-year-old QocTavia Shabazz of St. Paul. “When I think of the economy I relate that to politics, government,” she says. “I think, ‘That’s not my problem. Why do I have to deal with it?’ But it is my problem.”

Her perspective changed after Twin Cities artists worked with QocTavia and three other teens to connect what’s happening in the economy to what’s happening in their personal lives, and then to express those experiences through song and video.

QocTavia, her sister Aunrika, Jalil Shabazz (no relation) and Tony Gonzalez met weekly with spoken word artist Desdamona and multi-media producer Patrick Pegg. The artists helped these young people to make sense of the economic downturn’s devastating impact on their lives through art.  The  project, called My First Recession, is a unique collaboration between Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts that fosters civic engagement through arts and culture; American Public Media’s Public Insight Journalism initiative at Minnesota Public Radio, which cultivates diverse voices that deepen and enrich news coverage; and Neighborhood House, a multi-cultural center in Saint Paul. It was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Read the rest of this entry »