Keshia: Fire Me (Up) [Working Title] (Auckland, New Zealand)
1 Apr 2019 - 31 Mar 2020
A NOTE FROM KESHIA:
My name is Keshia. I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and migrated to New Zealand more than a decade ago, and have had the privilege of opportunity in Aotearoa. I am a performing artist – a singer, dancer, actor and entertainer. I am also a youth development worker. I have a passion for young people and advocating for them.
The story I want to tell is that of (some of) our young people in schools – young people in a system already set up to fail them. These young people aren’t given the space to be themselves in the space where they spend most of their time. They have no space to be and to express themselves. The school culture that they spend so much time in does not reflect their youth culture.
I have worked as a Youth coach in high schools for the past 4 years and I see these instances all too often; I have seen these first hand. Many of these young people are stereotyped and treated as if they don’t know much. Negative labels placed on them. Where these young people don’t feel connected to their teachers, don’t have a sense of belonging in their classrooms, which are integral parts of their upbringing and development, but they don’t feel that there is a safe space for them to grow and learn.
Some of our youths are already arriving at school stressed, afraid, confused, feeling negative and confused about themselves and their identity. They should be received in a warm and welcoming manner but they are already greeted with negativity animosity at the gate. This is not a generalization on all teachers and the purpose of this is not to put teachers down but to empower them with tools so they can continue to empower all young people in their classrooms with the important teachings they have prepared.
If teachers learned how to communicate and connect positively with these young people, it would really impact the effect they could have on them in terms of their learning and their experience at school. Studies have shown that protective factors need to exist in order to effect positive change. The key to young people feeling safe at schools is through the relationships and connections they make with teachers.
We have the ability to affect change in the way that young people contribute to society. Statistics show that young people are dropping out of school and missing out on opportunities they could have had to educate and upskill themselves in order contribute positively to themselves, their families and their community.
I was at a school recently where the students felt as though they are being mistreated at their school by teachers and members of staff. We had a random opportunity where a member of staff turned up to our meeting and one of our girls stood up and performed a spoken word piece which highlighted the cultural struggles they face in their school.
This is what Malia had to say: https://youtu.be/iYoOcVDJfGo.
The staff member was so moved that the faculty created a space for us to share this with the rest of their staff to highlight the realness of the issues that their students are facing every day.
Such an opportunity to highlight issues like these to school staff is rare.
Understand that while its an amazing opportunity for our students to share their experience and sentiment, and have a voice, it is never 100% acceptable to the people who hear their plea.
Some days I feel and think that as an advocate for young people I musn't be concerned with offending those who hold power, because this – our youths – needs to be heard above all else, and awareness needs to be fought for and won. Somehow.
So what if I put myself at risk of being Fired, surely it is worth it to get Fired Up for this. For them. For the ones that matter.
Then the rational mind and the all-too-fish-y Self takes hold, and I go from Fired Up to Fired Out...
I want to tell the stories of the young people I have had the opportunity to meet, get to know and spend time with. I want to help them share their experiences, without judgment, through the art forms of theatre, song and spoken word poetry. I want to actively workshop content, creative and presentation, together with them, and to use this as an opportunity to deliver youth development training to teachers, both through engagement of the creative processes as well as experiencing these unheard stories as audiences. I want to collaborate and create a catalogue of songs and poetry with the messages and stories of these young people, to be performed live. We may perhaps even record some of this for release online as an EP or as video content.
But crucially, I want to shape all these stories and artistic expressions into a one-woman solo show, accompanied by a live solo musician, and to share these curated stories as well as my perspectives on how we can improve the experiences of some of our youths in New Zealand schools, through the performance and touring of this new work – through schools, festivals, youth and community centres, marae and fale, here in Aotearoa and hopefully abroad.
In doing this, I hope to build a platform for teachers to be more aware of the language they are using with young people. To help teachers learn effective ways they can communicate and connect with young people. To help bridge the gap on providing young people a learning space with a school culture that works for them and is aligned to today's youth culture. Ultimately, I want to to create positive relationships between young people, teachers and school staff, and to create and perform a heartfelt, hopeful and emotionally resonant live experience.
SELECTED LINKS / RESEARCH:
ABOUT KESHIA (NZ/SOUTH AFRICA)
I am is a soulful live artist with distinctive style, energy and charisma; as a vocalist, I range from R&B to Pop. I am also an experienced hip-hop, dancehall and salsa dancer.
My performance highlights include (in no particular order):
- Performances and residencies in New Zealand, South Africa and Japan
- NZ Songwriter of the Year nomination and finalist
- Finishing Top 9 on New Zealand Idol
- Opening Soulfest in Auckland, NZ with The Boom Cat
- Opening for American R&B band 112
- Lead role in Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Sister Act the Musical; also lead roles in productions of Cinderella: The Musical and The Sound of Music
- Vocalist for various bands including Moka Vibes, The Boom Cat, Karamol, The Hangi Stones, etc.
- D1 Entertainment (US) featured recording and performance artist
Please see further my attached CV for my youth development background.