Youth Voices from a Moving Community: A Workshop at Cambio Creativo

Last summer I had the opportunity of collaborating with Panamanian youths from Cambio Creativo in several activities that took place in Coco Solo and Buenavista. As their community has started to move from the Panama Canal Zone, near Colón and the Atlantic sea, to the interior land of Buenavista, Cambio Creativo has been organizing projects that support the relocation process. From cutting giant grass to planting fruit trees to making music, youngsters actively participated in the moving process and learned to confront the challenges of re-starting a new life in another place. Among all the different experiences I shared with the community, the one that I would briefly discuss in this entry is a creative media workshop I helped to facilitate and that focused on music, rhyming and flow.


For the workshop we met with a group of 17 teenagers at the space of Cambio Creativo in Coco Solo. During the previous days, I have talked with several of these youngsters about Reggae, their favorite music, and about making rhymes and singing. Music was something that all of them loved it and were very interested in learning to make. Some of them, like David, were proud of their knowledge of computer software for DJ-ing, and others like Javier, used to carry headphones all the time for listening to his favorite tunes, even while doing heavy duties at the country side. Inspired by the values of positive and conscious hip hop, we designed the workshop in order to foster unity, diversity, and having fun.


We welcomed all levels of expertise and encouraged every participant to find their own voice and share their expressions with all the group. After hearing what every youngster loved about their community and their favorite activities, we had to write rhymes about our most memorable moments during the previous days. Using pen and paper, we worked individually and in pairs, and after creating 4-6 rhyming lines, we proceeded to perform the singing of them. Our goal was to create a collective song using all the rhymes and be able to ensemble them together in a single performance. After several rehearsals the whole group was able to perform an original song. The live recording of the last performance can be listened here:

The takeaways from this workshop are quite revealing since they show the effectiveness of participatory pedagogies for developing skills such as performing, writing, collaboration, and improvisation. I was really impressed by the talent of all the youths that participated in the workshop and loved they way in which they could easily create a genuine collective performance. The final performance was like a collective poem in which they openly expressed not only the favorite things (e.g. futbol, music, peers) but also the fears (e.g. racism, fights) they are experiencing during the relocation process their community is living.

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