I had taken the train from Indiana, overwhelmed and excited with the freedom my parents had given me, allowing me to go to the city on my own at such a young age. I was 14, walking in the door of the Harold Washington Library of Chicago with knobbly knees bumping together out of nervousness of what was to come. Would the other kids like me? Would I make friends? What if no one talked to me at all? That was the first time that I had gone to YOUmedia, and the first day that I met Brother Mike.
YOUmedia is a teen space co founded by Brother Mike, where teens (just like my awkward little self) can go to gain mentorship in the arts, spend time with other teens in their city, and play with resources like cameras and sound equipment to explore their interests. Brother Mike was one of the main mentors there and was my mentor for 7 years, getting me involved with amazing opportunities like being included in a show at The Kennedy Center for Blue Note's 75th anniversary, working for Digital Youth Network on various projects they've pursued that focus on mentorship and providing digital literacy to youth in Chicago, and having my first feature in the Huffington Post when I was only 16. He encouraged me to think critically about my work, and always gave me enthusiastic or critical feedback throughout my teenage years which helped prepare me for going to art school where my work would be continually scrutinized by my peers. I owe him for so many aspects of my artistic life now that he prepared me for that I could make endless lists for days.
Though it's easy to become stuck on the parts of Brother Mike's passing that hurts, it is just as easy to be reminded of the amazing work that Mike did and his lasting impact on the youth of Chicago. Today on what would have been Brother Mike's 40th birthday, the fellowship in his name was announced, he also has a scholarship in his name, and his contributions to Chicago are still continuing to develop. Today I'm going to a meeting for the beginning steps in creating an alumni network for kids who had gone to YOUmedia and want to remain connected afterword, and I couldn't feel more blessed and honored to have had Brother Mike be such a vital and integral part of my artistic career. :)