Helping Chicago Youth Find Their Voice

Urban Gateways engages young people in art experiences to inspire creativity and impact social change. Street Level, Urban Gateways’ Multimedia Arts program, uses video and audio production, digital arts, and the internet to engage young people, who have been historically underrepresented in mass media, in art- and technology-driven activities. With support from Voqal, Street Level continues to provide a space for Chicago youth to develop their ideas and find their voice.

Youth like 22-year-old, Tiffany Fleming. In February 2019, Fleming had the opportunity to attend the Chicago Mayoral Forum at the DuSable Museum on behalf of the multimedia journalism program, Mildsauce. According to her mentors, Tiffany started out as a timid, soft-spoken teen that exercised HOMAGO (Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out). By the time of the Chicago Mayoral Forum, Tiffany had participated in numerous workshops, gained the confidence to create and lead a K-Pop youth group, and was equipped and prepared to stand firm among a crowd of experienced, adult reporters and ask then candidates Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle direct, deliberately crafted questions.

Fleming is an example of the impact of Street Level and the importance of empowering youth through the arts to participate in civic engagement. With the skillset acquired through the Mildsauce program, participants have interviewed a range of community leaders on behalf of youth interests. They have covered subjects that are relevant to themselves and their peers, creating content for topics such as homelessness in Chicago, black skateboarders, the impact of Chance the Rapper, and the lyricism of Kendrick Lamar. By enabling young people to tell their own stories through various forms of media, not only has Urban Gateways gained valuable insight into the priorities of this distinct demographic, it has given them a platform for speaking up and speaking out.

The efforts of Urban Gateways and Street Level to empower and engage young people in the Chicago community is just the kind of community-focused work that is necessary to realize the socially equitable world envisioned by Voqal. We are proud to support Urban Gateways and look forward to the brighter future that the individuals it serves will no doubt create.