They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds

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About the Exhibit

This project showcases multimedia narratives of young story-tellers and change-makers about ordinary people doing extraordinary things in Detroit. Their stories reveal there’s more to this city than meets the eye. They disrupt stereotypes of Detroit by highlighting individuals and communities that make it vibrant and thrive. They inspire us to see Detroit differently and to see the people in Detroit differently.

In 2020, three Wayne State University faculty members – Roland Sintos Coloma, Aja D. Reynolds, and Christopher B. Crowley – received a generous grant from the Schultz Family Foundation with a proposal titled “Shifting Urban Narratives: Youth Civic Engagement and America’s Future.” They selected eleven diverse applicants from Detroit who are committed and passionate about capturing moments and movements of leadership, resilience, and community advancement. The youth fellows have uncovered stories of joy, belonging, and success as well as myriad pathways for social welfare and economic mobility.

We, the project team and youth fellows, invite you to learn more about the youth fellows and their work in this virtual gallery, as well as in person.

Featured Artists

The multimedia narratives told by the youth fellows are diverse, captivating and insightful, both familiar and lesser known. By sharing stories that are often not told, they challenge stigmas and misconceptions about Detroit and other urban areas in the United States. Their stories illustrate the complexities and impact of urban farming and food security, immigrant entrepreneurs, trauma and resilience, feelings of pride and shame, navigating the city as insiders and outsiders, and the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

The youth fellows received artistic and technical training and support to incubate and enhance their narratives. They were involved in various aspects of multimedia creation and co-curation, thereby ensuring that the final film and photo exhibition reflect their vision and perspectives. They also gained practical skills that they can leverage for future internship and employment opportunities.

Ana Lisa Alvarez

Ana Lisa Alvarez

she/her

“I want my art, film, and podcast to capture the love that I have for my family, my community, andmy people. I love uplifting others to reach their dreams. I want every aspiring artist, business owner, or immigrant to achieve all of their goals. My parents have been the anchors of my success and I am so empowered and motivated by their drive. I hope to encompass heritage, community, and the power of a family bond in my work.”

Brianna Bryant

she/her

“I hope my work creates space, time, and attention for black and brown girls to see themselves as unapologetically themselves. Together we should continue to feel confident blooming and showing up as ourselves. Far too often there are not enough spaces and opportunities filled with girls who look and speak like us.”

Brianna Bryant

she/her

“I hope my work creates space, time, and attention for black and brown girls to see themselves as unapologetically themselves. Together we should continue to feel confident blooming and showing up as ourselves. Far too often there are not enough spaces and opportunities filled with girls who look and speak like us.”

Charise Johnson

Charise Johnson

she/her

“Detroit is often viewed through the lens of people outside the city and media outlets. It is time that the story of Detroit was told by the people who live and are connected to the city. These pictures challenge the narrative of what Detroiter should look, sound, and act like. I hope these pictures will expand the audience’s mind and see a piece of themselves in these fellow Detroiters because we are all connected.

Dalin Roblero

she/her

“As Detroiters we are often stereotyped because of what the media chooses to display about our city. In reality there will always be more to a person or city than we are led to believe. Yes, our past might not be pretty, but if anything what we have lived through has given us the strength to fight for what we want and prosper, just like the city of Detroit. It is not only an honor to have my work showcased but I hope that it will be enough to show us and this city in a new light, as people who are healing, fighting, learning, exploring, and most of all, finally letting their voices be heard.”

Daylin Roblero
Daylin Roblero

Dalin Roblero

she/her

“As Detroiters we are often stereotyped because of what the media chooses to display about our city. In reality there will always be more to a person or city than we are led to believe. Yes, our past might not be pretty, but if anything what we have lived through has given us the strength to fight for what we want and prosper, just like the city of Detroit. It is not only an honor to have my work showcased but I hope that it will be enough to show us and this city in a new light, as people who are healing, fighting, learning, exploring, and most of all, finally letting their voices be heard.”

Esther Guerrero

Esther Guerrero

she/her

“In this project, I aimed to represent the culture brought to Detroit through the diverse people it houses. I also hope people feel the love I have for the city since it has given me everything I have.

Kezia Saine

she/her

“I didn’t want to do anything too extraordinary with my pieces because I wanted the viewer to see the city as it is through the lens of the camera. I wanted the shots to be candid and mostly unedited. The photos mainly consist of buildings, landscapes and amazing statues which I felt were important to display because these are some of the things that make this city beautiful from the blight to the incredibly constructed architecture downtown. I hope people look at my art and watch my film segment to see what Detroit was, what it is and what it could become and be unapologetically proud of that.”

Kezia Saine
Kezia Saine

Kezia Saine

she/her

“I didn’t want to do anything too extraordinary with my pieces because I wanted the viewer to see the city as it is through the lens of the camera. I wanted the shots to be candid and mostly unedited. The photos mainly consist of buildings, landscapes and amazing statues which I felt were important to display because these are some of the things that make this city beautiful from the blight to the incredibly constructed architecture downtown. I hope people look at my art and watch my film segment to see what Detroit was, what it is and what it could become and be unapologetically proud of that.”

Lilyan Zebib

Lilyan Zebib

she/her

“My work was crafted for viewers like myself who are working to combat their own bias in order to see the world from different perspectives. Same as I have been doing my entire life, I want viewers to step outside of their understanding of the culture of others and reflect on why they may feel this way and how far they may be from the truth. Challenge your mindset, and reach out to people and communities you may not know very well. You will open a gateway to building a collective world.

Michael Joseph

He/Him

“In my photos, and in my video, I wanted to capture the essence of rawness and realness. As I was writing, and thinking about my project I had to ask myself what narrative did I want to change? For me it was the narrative about me. I am 6’4, 260 plus black man, I am sure that right away people make assumptions about me. The problem with that is, you don’t know me to make an assumption. I am more than what you may think.”

Michael Joseph
Michael Joseph

Michael Joseph

He/Him

“In my photos, and in my video, I wanted to capture the essence of rawness and realness. As I was writing, and thinking about my project I had to ask myself what narrative did I want to change? For me it was the narrative about me. I am 6’4, 260 plus black man, I am sure that right away people make assumptions about me. The problem with that is, you don’t know me to make an assumption. I am more than what you may think.”

Michelle Perez

Michelle Perez

she/her

“Where a person comes from should not define them as an individual or their future. The label ‘Detroiter’ has many negative connotations but we are more than just the assumption of being or becoming a statistic. We are culture, unity, and a melting pot with an unbreakable backbone. I hope my film inspires someone, just one person is all it takes for change to begin its journey. For all my Detroiters and to the younger generations and to the ones to come, this is for you..

Nia Barnes

Nia Barnes

She/Her

I would say my work is very unorthodox and soft. I purposely made it ‘boring’ so people can really hear what my subjects were saying. I was really focused on queer and trans-black people in Detroit and what that looks like through their lenses. All 4 of my subjects are from the program AfroFuture Youth.

Nia Barnes

How Storytelling effects Change

Our project was featured in a video on “How Storytelling Effects Change” as a winner of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Voices for Economic Opportunity Challenge.

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This project is supported by

Wayne State University
Schultz Family Foundation
Purpose