breaking walls envisions a change from the painful, intolerant status quo to an ever-expanding inclusive, respectful and trusting world cultivated by our artists and ambassadors.

At breaking walls our artists are writer-performers. Our ambassadors, who were first artists themselves, are youth facilitators who lead the creative writing, performance and ensemble-building workshop. Each artist and ambassador is a part of a forum where young voices are creatively represented and nurtured on the path to leadership. Thus, these young men and women return to their home communities after a nine-day, intensive breaking walls initiative having explored their imaginations; and, embraced their creativity as the catalyst for compassion, collaboration, accountability, and commitment – ready to nurture a world where we can all trust one another.

Our challenge to the status quo of youth as oppressed and marginalized is to provide an incubator for youth ages 13-22 to become artists and ambassadors. breaking walls artists and ambassadors are part of a international community where young voices are creatively represented and nurtured on the path to leadership.

breaking walls allows its artists and ambassadors to explore current issues significant in their lives while strengthening literacy and critical thinking skills, and, simultaneously guiding these youth to become the creative, dynamic, empathetic leaders in high demand in the 21st century.

a documentary film by fran tarr

breaking walls is the outgrowth of its founder/director, Fran Tarr’s, documentary films bethlehem to brooklyn: breaking the surface (2008) and the award-winning brooklyn bridges- to bethlehem & back (2010). breaking walls began with youth in Brooklyn and then, Bethlehem — pairing youth, who struggle with social unrest, intolerance, peer pressure and life in a “virtual world,“ to establish an enduring creative community. Since their 2012 initiative in Berlin, they are evolving from a homegrown Brooklyn solution for issues facing youth everywhere to a cohesive enterprise that profits from individual and cultural diversity in constructing a system changing youth empowerment movement.

Berlin was selected for their initial breaking walls initiative because the vision of dismantling the Berlin Wall inspired breaking walls to dream even larger than Bethlehem & Brooklyn.Picture-17

Over nine-days 16 artists from Bethlehem, Brooklyn and Berlin experienced the writing-performing workshop while touring Berlin together. The most exciting aspect of the Berlin workshop was that Fran invited six Brooklyn and Bethlehem ambassadors who were cast members of both documentaries to lead the writing-performing.

breaking walls is proud that our 2014 partner was 12 Rainbow Dreams Trust youth in Cape Town, South Africa. We believe our initiative will assist the young men and women of Cape Town to discover their voice and offer them a platform on which to use it while they build a community with the writer-performers from Brooklyn, Bethlehem and Berlin through writing about issues of isolation, self-esteem, and the legacy of apartheid.

breaking walls 2015 will happen in Barcelona, Spain from July 21 thru July 31. The initiative will again consist of community building, creative writing, creation of a Theater Piece, and a culminating performance for a live audience; plus, the opportunity to share face-to-face dialogue and life experiences as an ensemble group. The 24 artists and 7 ambassadors from Brooklyn, Bethlehem, Berlin, Cape Town and Barcelona will come together to write around issues of economic disparity, high youth unemployment, low self-esteem, and how to shape a tolerant, peaceful world.

breaking walls takes a unique approach to youth empowerment, leadership and empathy by addressing four challenges youth in the 21st Century face:

· Social Unrest – Amid chaos, conflict and societal pressures, young men and women struggle for a sense of normalcy, control and the ideals they believe are right. As they navigate towards the bright, happy futures they desire, their choices are sometimes inspirational, sometimes negative and even self-destructive. breaking walls offers youth the opportunity to demonstrate that coming-of-age and activism positively define and shape individual lives.

· Intolerance – As government officials, community leaders and social media push reactionary intolerance in the form of racist, religious and ideological bating, breaking walls offers youth the opportunity to collaborate as empathetic, proactive allies and activists in the change-making and peace-building processes.

· Peer Pressure – Today’s youth continually face “Haters & Fakes” in schools, churches, neighborhoods, and in the ubiquitous “Everyone.” “Haters” resent those youth they see as possessing a life plan and consistently challenge that upward, forward progress. “Fakes” attach themselves to positive, empowered youth and attempt to reroute their energy to serve a hidden agenda. Through reflective, creative and mufti-disciplinary writing and performing, breaking walls encourages young students to discover their values and identity and to deepen their understanding of and compassion for others; and, to use the insights, skills and tools developed in our initiative as they transition into leadership positions.

· Life in a “Virtual World” – The influence, proliferation and immediacy of social media blurs boundaries of right and wrong, provides a false shield against consequences and repercussion, and pits the lure of notoriety against the restraint of common sense and decency. breaking walls demonstrates that social media can’t replace face-to-face dialogue and fosters the understanding that a personal profile not only reflects their chosen perception of themselves, but it determines their perception by others.

breaking walls is considering future partnerships with youth in Detroit, Bogota and Warsaw during 2016 through 2018.

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