I simply LOVE what you do! It’s the arts. It’s education. It’s mentorship and leadership. But why do YOU tell us about We Make Dreams Work and the exact need your organization fulfills.
We Make Dreams Work fills the most basic and most commonly over look need in society and that’s it teaches young people how to “dream with their eyes open”. While we believe all youth have the ability to dream and to accomplish goals, We Make Dreams Work seeks to enhance youths’ desire to dream and knowledge of how to set and accomplish goals. Many young people today are too afraid and/or too discouraged to understand the process of taking a dream to reality. They feel stifled by the lack of resources and support within their own physical environment. This in turn breeds hopelessness which kills their ability to dream. We provide a proactive way for young people to change their mindset and their community, by understanding that self-esteem and self-confidence are two of our greatest weapons in the fight to achieve economic stability and end the effects of violence and other social ills in our communities. They will understand and celebrate that they can be whatever they want to be by first changing their mindset and then changing the world around them.
To accomplish this task we utilize the arts. Everything from Media and Music; to Drama and Dance; to Culinary Arts and Fashion Design. We believe that all humans have some way they communicate their creativity daily, and we believe that creative communication is a way to help young people to embrace diversity and work together. We also believe that all humans on some level are activist, in that we all eventually in life find a issue we are willing to fight for. With this in mind we help create “Artistic Activism” this is a idea adapted from the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, it is a non-violent method of creating thought provoking education or awareness surrounding important social issues. As with the Movement songs used to send messages from cell to cell by youth involved in the 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama. Students would sing songs “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round, turn me round,…keep on a walking, keep on a marchin, martching to freedom land” or How actors like Harry Belefonte would lend their celebrity to a movement to help bring awareness to the issue, our hope is to create the next generation of strong, empathetic, leaders, by helping them paint pictures of the world they dream about through their projects.
Our students use their talent as a way to educate their peers about issues that are important to them.
The Urban Theater Project is simply fascinating to me. I feel like there are so many children that are not exposed to theater, yet We Make Dreams Work provides children with the chance to perform works of art that reflect their stories. Tell us more about this project. Who writes the plays? Who serves as the crew for your productions? Don’t tell me your students are trained in ALL AREAS of theater production because that would just cause me to scream in excitement.
The Urban Theatre Project in essence is a series of different theatrical performances written, produced, and performed by our students. An example was “Uncomfortable Conversations” this was a series of short skits designed to address different aspects of Domestic and Teen Dating Violence. After preparing the theatrical portion, the youth then host a town hall style meeting to showcase the performances and then moderate panel discussions on each issue.
The Dream Academy seems like a pretty robust program. Tell us the awesome details surrounding this program. Was this the program you launched the organization with?
The Dream Academy is a 8 to 12 week program that culminates with a Daydream. Daydreams are variety shows that center around one major theme. Comprised of performances by students in our program. This was the first program we launched. We produced a Daydream about teen issues and then later that year it was that project that launched our first movie project Strings Dream, which is a 40 Minute movie about bullying.
Now, what is your story? What was the precise moment that you decided to launch We Make Dreams Work? Do you remember the day you decided to take all the ideas you had to make a change and simply put them into action?
We Make Dreams Work as the name suggests is a team effort. There are four co-founders Anwan Glover, Nia Barge, and A’Leighsha Butler. The key to We Make Dreams Work really is the “We”. Each of us have a completely different skill set and background and the combination is what makes for such dynamic programming.
Personally I started my career working in Violence Intervention efforts nationally, dealing with the effects of gang violence in communities. For me We Make Dreams Work was an opportunity to bring something new and fresh to the community, and offer a preventive approach to youth development. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.
My personal mission is to help youth gain a deeper understanding of the American Dream while learning to describe themselves as global citizens. “Life should be better and richer and fuller…” utilizing the arts as a way to help break down barriers and deepen participants understanding of what it takes to achieve their dreams. “You’ve got to have a dream; if you want to have a dream come true” this was said by writer Dennis Waitley. Waitley suggest that in order to experience success you have to first visualize your success. Our children must learn that Dreams Work. That it is possible to dream something and to accomplish it, but that can only happen when you decide to put work behind your dreams.
There are numerous studies that show how positive the arts can be in academic achievement. Are you an artist of some kind as well? If I were to Google you, would I find videos of you singing or reciting Shakespeare? Who is the creative genius on your team?
You might find both in my background. My early years consisted of Classical training with the Washington DC Youth Orchestra program on Saturdays and Learning chord progressions and harmonies from my grandmother who was a gospel choir director. Throughout school I excelled in multiple artistic discipline’s, but I am far from the creative genius. Anwan Glover is a Washington DC Music Legend having one of the area’s top GoGo Bands for over 20 years, He also played the Character Slim Charles on HBO Series The Wire, and recently played opposite Common in Learning Uncle Vernon, Nia Barge and A’Leighsha Butler both Studied at Goldsmith university in London where they obtained Master’s Degrees in Applied theatre: Drama in eduacational, community, and social contexts, both are true renaissance women. Nia is a budding actor, director, comedian and film maker and A’Leighsha is a writer, actor, fashion designer, and film maker. I feel truly blessed to be a part of this team.
That’s a hard question, not because we haven’t had both but because I don’t allow myself to spend to much time focusing on losses or wins. I would say a constant obstacle like any other small non-profit is fully funding the work we want to do, for me our greatest accomplishment is in the state of our young dreamers. I truly love seeing our students develop and grow through our programs. To say we have met and help mold some truly amazing young people would be an understatement. Helping youth reach their true potential is the high, it’s what wakes me up in the morning.
I have come across so many nonprofit organizations that mention the difficulty in obtaining their 501c3. What advice can you give to such organizations that are trying to obtain their 501c3? Was there anything in particular that proved helpful during your process?
I always just recommend hiring a lawyer to fill out the forms, we didn’t find that part hard, because we didn’t attempt to do that portion on our own. I think when you first start out it’s a struggle to decide where to spend the little money you may have, but my rule has always been in the beginning to spend money on what I CAN’T do myself, not saying you “can’t” do it yourself, but if you make even the slightest mistake it can hold your process up.
Now let’s talk about your program B.U.L.L.Y. We Make Dreams Work really tackles an issue that is plaguing our schools in such a creative way. Please tell us about the various ways We Make Dreams Work is building awareness about this issue.
This was one of our first projects. B.U.L.L.Y. Be yoU Learn to Love Yourself. This was one of the issues that hit close to home. I had been bullied in elementary school by a teacher and I really didn’t know how to deal with it, so I love that we get to go and connect with young people to teach them about the “emotional tool box” which is how we describe the process of knowing which people or processes to use for help with emotional issues. We have connected with youth through this initiative as young as 6 and as old as 20 and helped encourage, uplift and empower them to “B.U.L.L.Y.” the program is about eradicating bullying by teach love of self. We teach that “Hurt people; Hurt People” so the solution to bulling becomes obvious, stop the hurt and you stop the Bully.
What are your hopes for Strings Dream?
Strings’ Dream was an awesome experience, the talent of that inaugural group of young dreamers was breath taking. To think the movie was made by all first time actors. But like they say amateurs made the Arc while experts made the Titanic. We have been able to show Strings Dream to over 40,000 youth nationally. My hope is that it continues to inspire youth, we are currently planning a trip to screen Strings Dream in Canada.
Your organization has helped so many young stories. Do you have a student in particular that has really been transformed through We Make Dreams Work?
I think this is another hard question, because only time will tell the true impact. We have some youth who graduated as the valedictorian, Some who got most improved, and some who have GED’s and we are equally proud of them all. They do not all have the same back story, they all have different journeys, and the impact of the program manifest differently in them all. I measure our success by gauging if we have impacted their resilience, focus, and communication, to me above all those are the three tools needed to bring any dream to life.
How does a young person become involved with your organization? Is there an audition or an essay? Tell us the details.
Typically they go to a school or live in a community where we have a funded program at, in addition we created the “Young Dreamers Program” which is open to any youth 13 to 18 to join, there is an two part interview and application, but not an audition. We use the time to connect with the parent and child to see if we feel we can become members of their team and help play a part in the success of the child.
As much as we like to do things entirely on our own, God blessings come through other people. How has the community come together to show support for your endeavors? What awesome leaders have volunteered over the years?
Again the “We” in our name is the essential Part. We have had help from local pastors, law makers, parents and friends. One friend comes to mind most and that’s Kim Clark she has been volunteering with our organization since it was just an idea. She heads up what we call community impact, so she coordinates volunteers, community partnerships, and creating special events and initiatives. Again We Make Dreams Work would not be able to be successful without our great supporters. We have also had many celebrities volunteer but I won’t start naming in fear of leaving someone off the list.
What can we expect from We Make Dreams Work in the upcoming school year and how can we be of service?
This year we are toddlers, the organization will turn 5 in February. We have some exciting programs and events planned. We are traveling more to different states, we are offering a more rigorous academic component to our programs to help strengthen reading and math skills of participants, and we will be shooting a new movie project, we are in pre-production maybe we can get you to agree to do a cameo in the project. Again “WE” is the theme of our organization so we are always looking for new volunteers, partners, and team members, connect with us on Instagram @wemakedreamswork or email email@example.com
Latest posts by Tamala Baldwin (see all)
- DEMONSTRATE YOUR LOVE BY RELEASING ALL FEAR - June 5, 2016
- #YOUARELOVE: RADIATE MORE LOVE THROUGH THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS - June 1, 2016
- Google Gives Google+ A Makeover - November 23, 2015