We spoke with Randell Adjei, founder of RISE Edutainment, to learn more about the organization.
RISE stands for Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere. Can you talk about the message of the acronym?
I think it is really important that we get to know who we are as people. There are 7 billion people that live on this earth and we're fortunate to be alive, to wake up each morning when other people have left us. I think it's important we get to know who we are as people and recognize we are intelligent, and great, and despite all the negative things that people may have said about us that doesn't necessarily have to become our reality. We're giving people a space to express who they are and share that with the world. Everyone's story is unique. It just deserves to be heard.
RISE gives opportunities for youth to create and lead artistic events in their communities. What's the importance of providing the space for them to express themselves and enabling them to do it on their own terms?
That's the beauty of a movement. The beauty of a movement is that you can create other leaders. I think one of the more important things is building other people and their capacity, their knowledge, their ability to really be able to make things happen. I think it's important that other people can see those leaders aspire towards something. I want the movement to live beyond me. I just felt from the beginning that you gotta invest in people. Who knows what tomorrow holds? I just want the movement to continue even after I'm gone.
We've got to think of it like this: It's always been documented in history, in revolutionary movements that the youth were the one who see the issues in the world, and in society, and pushed for change. They didn't want to grow up and go through the same things their parents went through. If I work with these youth now, at least when they get older, they have some sort of mechanism to let it out. From the base level, youth really need to be heard. When I talk to people about youth there are a lot of negative connotations of what youth are about. I wanted to make positivity cool. I wanted to make it cool to be young and positive. And not to have to make it feel like you have to follow some of the trends. I just want to show another alternative. There’s another path and you can find success in it.
RISE started in 2012. How has the program evolved?
It's serendipitous. Six years ago today was the first show that I ever did and that's where the evolution took place, within myself. I didn't know I had the capacity to do some things that I do. There were almost three steps to the evolution. First, this is a platform for the artists. Then the artists said “we want to find ways to make money.” So we gave them that opportunity. And then people in the community said – “I want to be part of this, I want to help.” So then we brought them on and built capacity. The platform is there to grow, the opportunity to learn and make some income, and the opportunity to be a leader. Also, because of this movement, people have met each other! They've started bands; they've started healthy relationships - children being born! I just think it's a very magical thing, to think this one thing was an idea and the idea has grown. All I really want people to do is see this idea I had, and think of their own ideas. Because who knows, we are just pure potential. Anything is really possible.
We talked about this as a tool for the toolbox: cope, express, speak out. Why are the arts the pathway to giving/developing those tools?
I think it's very important to meet the youth where they are at. They're into music, art. I think rather than trying to implement some sort of concept that is foreign to them… storytelling was a very first form of art. When I think about that, I think storytelling is something that's already ingrained inside of us. So here's a platform to tell your story in a creative way, to make it more entertaining for people. And that's why we play with the idea of ‘Edutainment,’ because you can entertain and educate people about your story. To me, the most exciting thing about it all is helping people became more vulnerable. Saying 'this is what I'm dealing with,' and I want to share. That's really inspiring for other people to say that I can do that too.
What does it mean to be nominated again?
Like I said when I started this, I never really knew of these things being possible, but I do believe that us being nominated again is us being recognized. We do this [work] every week. Every Monday night I'm there, because people want me to be there. They want me to be there to lead, to support, to entertain, and people don't recognize what it takes to do something every single week. You have to be on for people. It just means a lot. We meet on Sundays, we're there on Mondays, and we do work throughout the week. We are always grinding it out and we're still trying to figure it out - how to grow this machine, and for it to live beyond us. To be recognized reminds me to keep going. When it's really tough, it reminds me to keep going and keep pushing.