“Tell Your Story, Before They Do,” is the motto centered round Movement BE, a San Diego based organization that’s dedicated to help change the narrative of underrepresented youth and communities. Last week the organization hosted its 1stannual “BE the Voice: a Celebration of YOUth,” event held at San Diego Central Library. The members of Movement BE shared their stories through poetry, spoken word, and song. The night concluded with a keynote speech from actor O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Founder and Executive Director Nate Howard founded Movement BE back in 2013. He visits several high schools around the county and spreads his message to students. “Our mission is to develop an entrepreneurial mindset through storytelling. So we want people to understand what it means to be a brave entrepreneur. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to own your own business, but it does give you the mindset that says own something that no one can take away from you. Tell your story before they do,” says Howard.
And that’s exactly what they did. Members comprising of mainly high school students and other youth between the ages of 16-24, entertained and stunned the crowd with their own personal stories. Some audience members were even brought to tears. Luckily, I got to speak to some of the youth performers of the night before the show started. Artist and Movement BE member David H.—who goes by the stage name Yung Plato—shared with me why he is passionate about sharing his creativity.
“I just want people to know I’m doing this for my community. I’m the one that’s able to rhyme it and put it together, but it’s the voice for everyone. I want people to know what I project is not just my reality, but the reality of everyone who inspires me and pushes me to go forward,” David says.
Another youth performer of the night was Victor Izquierdo, a high school student who bravely shared his story with the crowd on coming out as a transgender male just last November, to his friends and family. As a member of Movement BE for nearly 2 years, he couldn’t help but express how being a part of it changed his life. He mentioned that Nate played a huge impact.
“Honestly, I was really going through a lot of stress issues and anxiety in my life because of past experiences, but it really helped me. A lot of the sayings and lessons he teaches us in the workshops, they really follow into real life examples, and they’ve really played a big part in my life. I’m glad the program was invented, I’m always repping it.”
It hasn’t exactly hit Howard yet that he is making such huge impacts on these youth.
“You know it’s that work you don’t even realize,” Howard started. “When I realize that it hits the youth and they’re supported by it, I feel empowered to realize ‘oh this really works,’ and we got to keep doing what were doing.”
O’Shea Jackson Jr., son of rapper Ice Cube and actor best known for his roles in “Straight Outta Compton,” and “Den of Thieves,” gave a 6-minute key note speech at the end of the night. He became involved with Movement BE when it was still what he called “a sticker,” while him and Nate attended USC together. Before he spoke, him and I had a chat about how the motto, “Tell Your Story Before They Do,” relates to his life.
Jackson said, “The reason I took the role to play my father [In Straight Outta Compton] was because I couldn’t let someone who wasn’t that close to him tell his story, because I felt like I would be dissatisfied with what was going to last forever through screen.”
And so on, his biggest advice for the kids is…
“Your story is different than everyone else, but no story is more special than your own. If you let it go, you’re further loosing yourself. Hold on to that part of yourself that makes you YOU, and you’ll find your super power and who you’re suppose to be,” Jackson continued.
With a warm ending to the event, the youth performers gathered on stage as a group and took pictures with Nate and O’Shea. They got to use their creativity to share their personal stories and walk away with feelings of bravery and proudness. Many of the students are on their way to college, some with scholarship offers. Guests were given the opportunity to leave notes in little boxes for the performers, each with their own label, to compliment them on their job or leave them with any positive messages.
Howard closed with this statement, “We need to create that community. To support our young people, to push them and say, ‘hey you’re not alone’ no matter where you’re come from. Your zip code shouldn’t determine your education. Where you grew up shouldn’t determine your education.”
It was a night truly for the youth.