The AjA Project: Photography Programs for San Diego Youth

AjA Project’s New Public Art Installation in Southeast San Diego “Faces Forward: Empowering the Present. Envisioning the Future.”

On March 3rd, 2016 The AjA Project installed its newest piece of public art featuring portraits of local Southeast San Diego youth in the Market Creek Plaza of Southeast San Diego!
The large-scale photography mural, created in collaboration with The Jacob’s Center for Neighborhood Innovation, is a sequence of six, 16-foot by 16-foot vinyl panels that wrap around the FOOD 4 LESS building in Southeast San Diego.
The images featured in the mural titled, Faces Forward: Empowering the Present. Envisioning the Future, were created by youth participants of The AjA Project’s 2015 Full STEAM Ahead Program, in partnership with The Jacob’s Center for Neighborhood Innovation.
Participants of the program submitted short essay responses to the prompt, “What is the future of your community?” for the opportunity to be featured in the community-based mural. Below are the participants’ selected responses paired with the individual panels featuring the portraits of selected participants. Congratulations to all the 2015 Full STEAM Ahead participants for an innovative, exciting and inspired program!

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Panel featuring  Bryanna Banks

Community, as defined in Webster’s dictionary, is a body of people or animals living in the same place under the same conditions. Although we all in the same place, we don’t live under the same conditions. Right now I see my community as positive, peaceful, clean and filled with people. There are plenty of positive changes happening in my community. When I ride in the car, I see new sidewalks and health centers. There also seems to be less trash than before. My community is noisy and busy with the trolley and buses, but it is also peaceful. The library is a place where students go to study quietly and read books they have interest in. In the future I would like to see less homeless people on the streets. I know there is not much we can do about homelessness, but I hope there can be a safe place for them to get themselves together. I would also like to see more community projects that create unity such as painting or gardening. We have lots of programs to keep the youth busy nowadays. Overall, I love the community where I live, learn and shop. We have great leaders and neighbors. If we all invest our time and energy to make it great, we will see amazing changes in the future.

-Bryanna Banks

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Panel featuring  Lidia Romero

Over 10 years ago, I moved into my current home with my family. I’ve been told that my neighborhood isn’t the best, but I never understood when I was young. After all, our neighbors are sweet. I even meet my best friend here 5 years ago. She was the one that encouraged me to be part of The AjA project, by coming with me. Not to long ago a girl, was killed in our area and my friend came to school depressed because she had known the girl. I want my neighborhood to be safer. I want to see people walking about without worrying. My neighborhood won’t get safer if people don’t at least try. If people say that a place is bad or worthless, then that’s all it ever will be. I want to be able to say I live in my neighborhood without feeling any shame. It’s unfair when people look at me differently because of the “area” I live in. It isn’t only about our home; it’s about who we are as people. I probably won’t live here for my whole life, but one day I’ll come back and it will be different and safer. I’m sure of it.

– Lidia Romero

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Panel featuring  Leyla Torres

We cannot determine the future, however we can become important assets to making a change. We are discouraged by our age, race, and intelligence, but little do people realize we are the future leaders. We will grow up to become future engineers,doctors,lawyers,astronauts, and maybe even the president. It lays in our hands to make a difference in our community, the question is How? and What? will we do to change it.
We don’t need new infrastructure (gentrification is not allowed), because buildings don’t create the communication and power a community needs. Envision a future where our location is not determined by the social classes we are appointed to, but by the culture and history our neighbors value. Our future is not based on materialistic objects our society praises on. Together we will strive our best to create a better future for the younger generation. We will create an eco-friendly community, and at the same time promote higher education. As a community activists it is important to educate everyone about school, politics, history and culture.

– Leyla Torres

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Panel featuring Jimmy Phimmasone

I saw that there were also people in my neighborhood who shared the same vision. They wanted to change our community to make our environment safer. They knew it was going to be hard, but would not mind the time it took to make a huge impact. I felt the same way too, by simply seeing them act like this, it has motivated me to become the person I am today. As well with having a positive mindset of where I live. This place that I proudly call my home has “little jewels” if you look explore more open minded. To the delicious ‘around the corner’ taco shops, then the joy of being out there with a soccer ball and company. Don’t even get me started on how lucky our weather is here. If all San Diegans shared the same vision of building a safer and cleaner community, then maybe we can impact where we live. Picking up trash that we see or give greetings and thanks. The little actions in life is what makes it so great. Love is in the details and we are the details of San Diego because that is what makes it so lovely. Us.

– Jimmy Phimmasone

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Panel featuring Rikayah Dorian Salmond

When I close my eyes and think of the Logan Heights community, I see hope. Hope that the community can be uplifted from the stereotype that Logan Heights is a bad place to live, or is looked down upon because of it’s history. I feel hope radiate from the people, that they care about where they live and that they want a change. That gentrification stops pushing people out of their homes, that money can be generated back into the community. That local schools can get more funding. I hear the sounds of hope among the youth, that they want to make a change. I hear music playing, carrying the tunes of change. Ultimately, I know that as long as we focus in the community as a whole to determine how to progress, nothing will stand in our way to becoming a better community.

– Rikayah Dorian Salmond

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Panel featuring Nikayla Jackson

Growing Up in City Heights and Paradise Hills, I never thought about changing where I lived. However at the beginning of Middle School at De Portola and later attending Serra High,I saw prettier things; Movie type stuff, the grass was greener, the people seemed happier, no one was scared to walk outside. It’s pretty scary for me to hang out with friends by my house, but if we’re somewhere near Tierrasanta I feel safer. So I guess what I would like to change about my neighborhood is the image we have. We have names for certain parts called “4 corners of death.” Now I don’t live near these places, but the people I spend most of my time with believe that the “ghetto is the ghetto.” It maps out an ignorant, ugly, embarrassing drawing of myself and I hate it. People are at school fear me number ONE because I’m black and number TWO because I ride the bus to City Heights. THE HOOD. They think I’m poor, but I’m the TOTAL opposite. So I’m not to sure what’s I’d change, maybe the name, the image, the fear.

– Nikayla Jackson