Cedar-Riverside leaders and residents are using art to counteract negative perceptions of the neighborhood and bring community members together.
The Connecting Community project, with support from Springboard for the Arts and the West Bank Business Association, took place last weekend and featured art, music and film from the neighborhood. By bringing together local activists and artists, event organizers aimed to counteract Islamophobia and connect youth with mentors.
“This project brought them together, and introducing them together and now; they are teams that are working really hard with the common goal and their goal is to serve the community or the neighborhood, especially the youth in the neighborhood,” said project coordinator Abdurrahman Mahmud. “The main goal of the project was to tackle Islamophobic behaviors that are recently on the rise.”
Projects for the event included an “audio playground” where attendees could use instruments and technology to play music, a showcase of art by local youth and a screening of a documentary.
A group of local mothers also took part in lighting lanterns in hopes of bringing city attention to a need for more lighting to deter crime in parts of Cedar-Riverside. Bosteya Jama, a mother with the group, said they are working to reach out to young people and to the city to solve youth crime and violence.
“We feel like there's a lot of disconnection between the community and the youth themselves, mothers and the youth. And we're trying to find a way where we can come up with some kind of change,” Jama said.
Faisal Khalif and Abdinajib Ibrahim are two young people who showcased their art. Allen Christian, a local artist at the House of Balls studio, taught Khalif and Ibrahim how to create different art pieces through welding, plasma cutting and other methods.
Mahmud said Khalif and Ibrahim can use these skills to create economic opportunities.
“I really don't have too much art in my background,” Khalif said. “That's something I always wanted to learn. ... When I get older and have my own house and get a garage, [I’ll] just start welding things, start putting art together. Probably open up a spot like this soon for the future, probably help other kids like [Christian helped] us.”
Khalif and Ibrahim were introduced to the project through Daryeel Youth, an East African street outreach program for young people. Daryeel Youth partnered with House of Balls for the project.
“A lot of times, young people who are dealing with addiction and other problems, we stigmatize them, we don’t acknowledge them as human beings,” said project lead and Daryeel Youth founder Abdirahman Mukhtar. “So my role is really acknowledging them and giving them a second chance, connecting them to resources and mentors and people that can help them.”