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Learning About the African Diaspora Helps Kids Grow into Leaders

By Alauna Yust

Anthony Galloway knows ARTS-Us, both personally and professionally.

He grew up in the Saint Paul program, immersed in learning about the cultural heritage of the African Diaspora. He graduated from high school, got a degree in ethnic studies, founded Umoja Equity – a diversity and equity building consulting group – studied some more and eventually came back to ARTS-Us as Executive Director.

Anthony’s path embodies the mission of ARTS-Us, which is to develop “young leaders through the art, culture and sciences of the African Diaspora.” And ARTS-Us does that in myriad ways.

“What they’re doing is looking at arts and sciences and culture through an Afro-centric lens,” says Pleasant Radford, Jr., Evaluation Principal for Blue Cross Blue Shield Center for Prevention. “And that’s important, to be proud of where you come from and the culture that you represent.”

Take Camp Teranga, ARTS-Us’ five-week artist summer camp for youth that offers workshops and experiences in African drumming, storytelling and dancing, but doesn’t stop there. They also have a hands-on community garden that focuses on the many palates of the African Diaspora. Students learn how to grow and care for herbs used in Ethiopian dishes, for example, while also learning about the Middle Eastern spiral herb garden technique that allows for growing in limited spaces. And, through a partnership with the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center at the Science Museum of Minnesota, campers also get to experience virtual reality headsets and learn about aquaponics while surrounded by a mural honoring scientists of the African Diaspora, such as biologist, activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Matthai, and the first African-American woman in space, NASA astronaut Mae Jemison.

“We are able to incorporate the idea of a healthy body and a healthy mind into everything we do,” explains Aliya Ward, a 16-year-old youth leader whose family ties to the organization run deep. Her grandmother, Toni Carter, is one of the co-founders of ARTS-Us. “We kind of come from a very holistic perspective, where we want your body to be healthy physically, and we want you to have a healthy mind, and we want to help you with these things, and we want you to help us with these things.”

That collaborative approach, says Janelle Waldock of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, can be profoundly transformative when it comes to community health.

“We know that health happens in community,” she says. “We know that the most powerful and sustainable solutions for addressing health and health challenges really come from the communities themselves.”

Production Team: Alauna Yust, Jacob Kelso, Jonathon Camp, Miles Painter

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This story was created in collaboration with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Center for Prevention as part of Building Health Equity: Health Happens in Community.

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