Written by: Marina Zoullas, FXB Communications Intern, who travelled this summer to Colombia and interviewed families that participated in the FXB Village program.
It was a hot, Colombian night in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Barranquilla, and I was very fortunate to be able to see the first presentation of Escándalo Urbano, FXB’s Colombian youth program’s exhibition. The whole neighborhood came down to the fields to enjoy the performances of its participants. There were rappers, break dancers, DJs, and graffiti artists displaying their talents. The excitement was palpable and everyone was curious to see what these pelaos (young boys and girls) have been working on for the past month while attending the FXB youth program. The enthusiasm of the talented performers was paired with loud music, bright lights, and a lively crowd full of supportive families and friends.
As one group of young rappers, consisting of four boys and one girl, approached the stage, the crowd roared with excitement. One by one each rapper started to join in on the song, performing their solos with more and more confidence as the song continued. One of the members, a boy around 17 years old with disabilities, froze during his performance and forgot his part. All of a sudden, the rest of the group jumped in to not only help him, but also encourage him to continue. The camaraderie and respect that I witnessed during this performance between these kids, who a few months earlier dealt with drugs and gangs in their day-to-day lives, was overwhelming and beautiful. That moment made me realize that sometimes having an opportunity to follow another path could be transformative.
Another performance that stood out was Disney Stuart’s. Although he is 11 years old, he barely looks like a 6 year old. In exchange to a promise that he will come next week to the programs lessons, FXB Colombia country director lets him on stage to sing. Stuart, who looks like a kindergarten kid, starts rapping to some famous song about how no one had faith in him and how now he is famous and proved everyone wrong. The whole audience starts roaring and singing and dancing to the tune. But there is more to Disney Stuart than meets the eye.
Disney Stuart is the grandson of one of the FXB Village past participants. When I meet him in his grandmother’s home, he is wearing a spotless uniform and clean new shoes. He is very polite and shakes our hand, but all of a sudden becomes very aggressive and rude towards his grandmother. Olga, his grandmother who is a graduate of the FXBVillage program, says she is having a hard time with him, particularly with keeping him in school. As we are talking, we start to understand that Stuart probably has a learning disability and that’s why he is having a hard time keeping up in school and is disruptive. I also found out that Stuart’s father is a member of a gang and Stuart doesn’t seem him often. Half way through our conversation, he comes back and tells us he loves to sing and sits down in one of the three plastic chairs in the room and starts singing. I was blown away not only with his singing, but also with his passion and focus.
About Marina Zoullas: Marina Zoullas is a high school student in New York City who is passionate about empowering women living in extreme poverty around the world. In addition to interning at FXB USA, she has been involved in supporting microfinance initiatives in Ghana and started a women’s collective, Give and Gain, that supports women through the fair trade and handmade products they produce.