RML: What's Going On...Now: A National Youth Conversation through Digital Media

In May of 1971, Marvin Gaye released the landmark record album What’s Going On. A year later, he performed it at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Beginning in 2011, the Kennedy Center will lead the national conversation by creating a digital media education platform celebrating the 40th anniversary of this iconic work. In May 2012, we’ll bring that conversation home to the Kennedy Center in a celebration concert featuring John Legend, the National Symphony Orchestra, and many special guests—including young artists and youth media producers.

At the center of this conversation is an international youth media campaign with a simple and direct call to action:

In 1971, Marvin Gaye captured and commented on the spiritual and cultural chaos of the nation. It’s been 40 years. Have things changed? What’s Going On…Now? You tell us.

The campaign invites young people to share their perspectives through images, poetry, video, music—wherever they find their creative voice. Through the original recording itself, historical artifacts, and contemporary celebrity interviews and remixes, the Kennedy Center will provide the foundation for youth media producers to be at the forefront of this national conversation. We’ll showcase the best of this youth-produced media online and at the Kennedy Center during the celebration.

To ensure deep connections for teens and young adults, the project will be incubated in the Fall of 2011 within a network of established youth media, arts groups, high schools, and media partners before its public launch in late January 2012.  These groups include YOUMedia Chicago, Youth Radio, ARTLAB+ in Washington, DC, and Venice Arts, each of whom bring their unique perspectives on digital media and learning to the project and its participants.

Leveraging a custom curriculum and the iRemix social learning network for primary and secondary education, youth partners from 7 different cities across the United States, will be able to dive deeply into an educational resources surrounding the iconic album, ultimately enabling youth at all skill levels to develop original transmedia offerings that respond to the critical question, “What’s Going On…Now?”  The platform will also allow youth from each of the participating cities, and their adult allies that support them, to critique and evolve the submitted work; thereby allowing for a unique nationwide critical experience for all of the young people involved.

Through this project, the Kennedy Center and its collaborators will provide youth the incentive and opportunity to develop their artistic, critical literacy, and career skills – and nurturing their idealism and commitment to civic action through the arts. Our panel will discuss the evolution of the project, its breakthroughs and challenges, and share some of the youth-produced media from the campaign.

Uday Joshi
Nuit Hangsen
Nuit Hangsen
Uday Joshi
MIke Hawkins
Darrell Johnson
Akili Lee, Discussant
Garth Ross, Discussant