DeWaun E. Robinson is inspired when he observes “Rites of Passage” program students assembling at Hamady High School.
As part of the ongoing mentoring initiative Robinson launched through Artistic Visions Enterprise in January, the youth gather for regular sessions that involve everything from black history studies to short meditation. At the onset of the program the ninth- and tenth-grade participants were instructed to recite affirmations pertaining to their personal excellence and capabilities. After five months, the young men no longer need instruction. Robinson says he often finds them reciting the positive words without prompting.
“I go off to the side and smile to myself,” says Robinson, Artistic Visions Enterprise’s CEO.
One of multiple youth-focused and community-centered efforts Artistic Visions Enterprise facilitates, Rites of Passage is designed to mold future black leaders. The inaugural Rites of Passage class will graduate in its own ceremony by the end of Hamady’s 2017-2018 school year.
Inspired to launch Rites of Passage after he took a trip to Egypt in 2017, Robinson drew the character-building and cultural awareness aspects of the Hamady initiative from African rites traditions.
“Everybody won’t travel out of the U.S. Everybody won’t travel out of Michigan,” he says. “But we can develop some strong, young brothers and strong, young sisters right here.”
Connecting Flint-area youth with their cultural origins supports the premise, “You can’t move far if you don’t know who you are,” Robinson says.
A Flint native, he returned to his hometown from Detroit where he briefly enjoyed a hip hop music career, touring with the chart-topping act, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Robinson later formed Artistic Visions Enterprise in 2014, partly to combat negative media and misconceptions about his hometown.
“We wanted to be that alternate bridge to showcase the positive activity and impact that people in the community were making,” he says.
Artistic Visions’ first event, which is still held on the fourth Saturday of every month, was the popular “Spotlight Night,” an artist and community engagement series. Performers, community leaders, elected officials and young people have frequented the showcase.
This month’s event is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 26 at Greater Flint Arts Council, 816 South Saginaw St. and will be dedicated to honoring local mothers, including women who’ve been local role models.
Following “Spotlight Night,” Artistic Visions launched the Young Visionaries Program, an educational effort held at different locations throughout Flint, designed to empower them through cultural exposure and activities.
“We want to make sure we build innovators, people who are going to take the lead for the next generation,” Robinson says. “We wanted to be more of a bright spot, more of a vehicle for change.”
Supported by a team that includes Lamarr Mitchell, Derahn Shields, Ronald Robinson Jr., and Cameron Robinson, along with two interns, Artistic Visions maintains a focus on continuously implementing school-based and community initiatives. The Media Arts Program includes instruction for youth in photography, graphic design and radio broadcasting, among other training that caters to student interests.
“We get a lot of support from the community, so that’s what keeps us strong,” Robinson says.
With a background in non-profit work, he developed a passion for motivating youth, especially those experiencing the years approaching adulthood. Having made community connections during his time in Detroit, he also collaborates in a monthly Young Visionaries mentoring program on the city’s east side for ages 14 to 26.
Splitting his time about “60-40” between Flint and Detroit, Robinson says he’s committed to serving both cities, especially youth who are labeled as underperformers.
“The gratification is in the outcome,” adds Robinson. “It’s in the results.”
Les Key, Hamady’s principal, says Artistic Visions’ positive results are apparent in the growing interest Rites of Passage has generated in fewer than six months.
“Our young people are hungry,” he says. “I’ve got kids knocking down the door, trying to be a part of this program, and I just appreciate what Mr. Robinson is bringing to the school.”
For more information about Artistic Visions Enterprise and its programs, please click here or call (313) 258-8967.
–Pictures courtesy of Artistic Visions Enterprise