Young, gifted and black: Turning pain into power through art, philanthropy and entrepreneurship

Updated: Feb. 24, 2020 at 9:06 AM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Artistic expression, young entrepreneurs, and philanthropy. Just a few examples of how young people in northeast Ohio are demonstrating there's hope for the future.

19 News producer Asedrick Thomas has spent the past three months sitting down and getting to know people from the area, who chose to use their personal pain to make a positive impact on the community.

In 1895, prominent African-American educator Booker T. Washington asked his black people to “cast down your bucket where you are.”

The philosophy is simple: make the most of your current situation.

That message of hope is not lost on Jenoah Lee, 14.

Jenoah, who is bi-racial had to be home-schooled after constant bullying by a fellow classmate.

“The racial bullying that happened to me was very traumatic," said Jenoah.

After a couple of investigations, his father pursued legal action.

Jenoah chose to “cast down his bucket.” He didn’t want to take that route.

“I wanted to turn it into a positive,” said Jenoah.

He did just that.

Born out of personal pain, Jenoah created his own clothing line called “Urban Stereotype.”

The brands’ initials spell out the word “us.” JeNoah did this by design.

He believes through his passion for fashion, he can use his brand to bring people together.

The teen once singled out at school, now uses his talent to promote unity.

His father, Ya’ Hawkquah Lee, could not be more proud of his son.

“He has turned his negative racial bullying situation into a positive business model,” said Lee.

Another story we followed closely was that of Stanley Gordon and Sam Long.

They created “Let’s Tie the Knot,”

It’s a metaphor for bridging the gap between kids and adults in the African American community.

Over the years the organization has donated cleats to area high school football teams.

They have also given book bags to students in need.

Gordon has even dressed up as Santa to pass out toys to children of single mothers, a deed that has special meaning to Gordon.

He used to be in foster care. He recalled a guy giving him a toy truck. That day he decided, “I want to be that guy.”

As for the ties, they’ve passed out thousands and taught more than 1500 young men how to tie a knot, a skill that will benefit the young men.

“It’s our responsibility to give them wisdom, knowledge, understanding. A good solid foundation so when trials come, when the rain comes, they can be prepared to get through the storm," said Let’s Tie the Knot vice president, Sam Long.

The final group we spent time with was a collective of five artists who are members of “Shooting Without Bullets.”

The metaphor here: artists use cameras as creative tools not weapons.

Amanda D. King is the founder of the organization.

“Art is really that vehicle and catalyst for change, she said.

“Art becomes the mechanism for us all to get on the same page and talk about where we want to go and really visualize," said impact directir, Kelsi Carter.

The artist ages range between 19 and 20. They have traveled the country showing off work that reflects their environment. In some cases their own personal struggles.

Hip-hop artist Maurice Philpott, 20, has a speech impediment. He said, “It was always difficult to explain myself back when I was younger and music is the only expression I really had.”

“I would always watch my parents and they would always watch the news and the news never has anything positive," said hip hop artist, Shatara Jordan, 19. ″ It’s always negative, negative. Somebody died. Another Black person got shot. So it’s like for me creating my artwork is a way to really enjoy living life.”

For photographer, Jasmine Banks, 19, her artwork is therapeutic.

Banks’ latest artwork was in honor of her grandmother who passed away a little over a month ago. She wanted to do something in remembrance of her.

She recalled, “I snapped a bunch of her already while we had to go down south to even make all the arrangements and stuff but I was like I want to take a bunch of pictures and I don’t know what I want to do with them. And I just found a way to put it in my work.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the work of these artists speaks volumes about their reality.

The work of all of these amazing young people speaks volumes about the future of Northeast Ohio.

That future is extremely bright.

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