Then and now
During his fellowship, Emery “Tre Subira” Whitlow established The Griot’s Eye, a youth leadership and community development program in the Park Heights community that fuses media technology with cultural awareness. The youth produce video programs that encourage dialogue and action on social issues. The year-long program also includes community service, cultural education, field trips, and training in media production. At the end of year, the students go on a month-long trip to Ghana and Ethiopia to explore their cultural heritage and participate in youth-led community development efforts.
Since becoming an alumni fellow, Whitlow has housed The Griot’s Eye—and another program, “Black to Our Roots,” which uses African values to inspire urban youth to become change agents in their communities—at a nonprofit organization, HABESHA (Helping Africa By Establishing Schools at Home and Abroad).
Whitlow has taken more than 25 youth to Africa on three separate trips, produced an annual youth film festival, shown student-produced films in local and international venues, and cultivated youth leadership.
Challenge of sustainability
“My strengths lie in dealing with the youth,” Whitlow says. “So my biggest challenge has been shifting from playing that role to taking on the role of the visionary and fundraiser—and working on the structure of the organization.”
OSI-Baltimore has helped
“OSI is a wealth of information. If you are serious about social change, social justice and being a social entrepreneur, they can help get you pointed in the right direction. OSI knows the landscape,” Whitlow says.
He also has found that mining the talents of other fellows has been very useful.
“We are all working to improve the social environment,” he says. “So the networking, the contacts, the advice, the expertise—it helps to have OSI there to provide all those things.”
HABESHA-Baltimore plans to engage a facilitator to lead its board through a strategic planning and fund development process and produce curriculum and training materials to strengthen and sustain current programming needs.
“We’re looking to do some organizational development and produce a five-year business plan as well as some professional development,” Tre Subira says.
Whitlow plans to build a second year of training and development for students who have participated in the Griot’s Eye. The second year would provide an internship, adding a true workforce development component to the program.
“The first year, the students learn the basics of storytelling and film production,” Tre Subira says. “The second year, they’re going deeper. The training will be in advanced film production and how to generate income. My goal is to prepare them for a professional career of media production, so that this can be the basis for a real job.”