Amanda King, Makela Hayford and Robert Banks of Shooting Without Bullets
Growing up in the city of Cleveland, Ohio presents young people with a number of challenges that can be quite difficult to navigate alone. Shooting Without Bullets, a youth advocacy and fine arts education program, is using art and photography to equip young adults with the skills to better handle and talk about some of their biggest stressors. Their impact on the youth of Cleveland has not gone unnoticed as this year Shooting Without Bullets has been named an A3C Action Finalist.
“Cleveland has a really interesting culture,” Creative Director of Shooting Without Bullets Amanda King said. “It’s a city where it is majority African Americans. Poverty is extremely high. The police department is known for unconstitutional policing.”
Many youth may find it hard to articulate their feelings regarding the cases of police brutality that have rocked the nation. The youth of Cleveland are in a unique position as some of the most high profile cases of the past three years have involved members of their community.
“This is place where Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Melissa Williams and Timothy Russell were all killed by the police all within a three year span,” said King.
Shooting Without Bullets gives kids the confidence and platform to express emotions that are often internalized. King said one of the biggest challenges she faces is getting students who are too shy or lack the vocabulary to say all of the things that they are feeling. The program gives its students perspective.
“We don’t tell them what to say but we help facilitate how you are expressing it,” King said. “What is some of the language you are using? If you are confused about a I can help you understand the logistics behind it.”
King studied art history at Brenmar University before pursuing a career in fashion journalism. After the death of Trayvon Martin, she decided she needed to do something to help young black people.
“It totally shifted my life and interest upside down. At the time that Trayvon Martin died, I knew I had to use my eye and visual expertise to communicate messages for black youth. I knew I needed to use my tools and knowledge to help them instead of for commercial purposes."
One of the perks of the time King spends working with the youth is that she is able to share what she learns from her students in her position as a member of the Cleveland Community Police Commision, a group tasked with helping plan police reform.
A3C Action is a competition that awards organizations that employ art, music and hip-hop culture to advance social justice and engagement in underserved communities. Shooting Without Bullets and six other finalists are competing for an opportunity to win $10,000 in cash and in-kind contributions.