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“Innocent Until – Why Black and Brown Lives Matter” unites youth and art

on September 22, 2014

Young Richmond and Oakland artists came together at the RYSE Center on Friday to deliver their brand of poetic expression in response to community violence, particularly the deaths of young black and brown men at the hands of law enforcement.

“It’s a necessary event,” said Josh Healey, an activist and artist. “Whenever you can have young people coming together to speak uncensored truth about real stuff that’s going on in the community, in the country, that’s beautiful.”

Organized by the RYSE Center, a youth program in Richmond, and hosted by its newly incorporated music and performing arts program, RAW Talent Productions, the event was part of the program’s ongoing campaign called “Innocent Until: Why Black and Brown Lives Matter.” Of particular note in the performances Friday were the deaths of Michael Brown and Oscar Grant, unarmed men who were killed by police in Ferguson and Oakland.

More than 20 youth shared their insights in rhythmic and searing detail, and the audience received them with clapping hands and snapping fingers, RYSE’s code of appreciation for an artist’s words during their performance.

The performances crackled with themes of unity and anti-violence and ended with the words of the night’s host, Donte Clark. Clark is a Richmond native and renowned poet and rapper with RAW Talent, a local creative arts troupe.

“But these guns I’d rather see them melted into handshakes, praying that one day this can be real,” Clark rapped to the audience. “I am urging all of us to put down our weapons, remove Smith and Weston from our thoughts and maybe our raw talent will rise.”

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