For many people, art is an oasis and an expression of their feelings. For centuries, art has been used to depict and capture moments in history. In the midst of national protests to end police brutality after the shootings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake, KIPP alumni around the country are calling for change and showing their support through their art and activism.
Name: Tania Smith
KIPP School: KIPP Infinity, KIPP NYC College Prep
Tania, graduated last spring from Binghamton University with a degree in Human Development and an Education minor. Tania works a full-time college advisor for KIPP Through College and Career NYC. During the pandemic she created an art/print shop Take Care, Sis (TCS). TCS was birthed during quarantine, Tania used painting to cope with her own stress and anxiety during that time. Through her artwork, she aims to inspire her audience to tap into their own creativity, and ultimately take care of themselves. By selling her paintings, she was able to raise up to $700 for a emergency release fund which helped bail out nonviolent arrested protesters from the trans community which tend to have greater health risks while incarcerated. Tania also aims to create art that’s representative of beautiful Black people as most of her work features Black figures.
Name: Aizhaneya Carter
KIPP School: KIPP Philadelphia Charter School
Aizhaneya is a native Philly actor, producer, and storyteller. As an actor, she recently completed an Acting apprenticeship at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Aizhaneya is currently the producer of the series, Gales, a “dramedy” about the lives of three Black millennial nurses as they navigate adulting in Baltimore city. This Fall, Aizhaneya will attend Brown/Trinity Rep to pursue her MFA in Acting. Through acting and producing, her mission is to preserve, record, and illuminate the stories and voices of Black folks in order to advocate for freedom, light, and joy. Below you will find her one woman show, Rememory (2019), afro-futurist show written and performed by her whose premise is drawn from Derrick Bell’s The Space Trader. Outside of acting and producing, Aizhaneya is interested in advocacy through policy change and child literacy. You can visit her website www.aizhaneya.com for more of her work.
Name: Roquel Crutcher
KIPP School: KIPP Diamond Academy – KIPP Memphis
Roquel Crutcher is a policy entrepreneur at Next100 and an advocate and activist for social justice and educational equity. At Next100, Roquel focuses on increasing educational opportunities and postsecondary outcomes for young people in marginalized communities. Roquel’s interest in educational equity is a result of personal experience attending great schools, and the opportunity they provided her to achieve a better education and choice-filled life. As a student, Roquel was founder and president of American University’s chapter of the NAACP and later served as the D.C. branch chair of the Young Adults Committee. Roquel has worked at several educational nonprofits, including Teach for America and the KIPP Foundation, using both platforms to advocate for educational equity. Roquel was selected for New Profit’s Millennial Impact Fellowship, NAACP’s Next Generation Fellowship, and a 2018 Aspen Ideas Fellowship. As an alumna of KIPP Memphis, Roquel was selected as an inaugural KIPP Accelerator Fellow. In her piece below, she tells her personal story but also call for a change in the way we view advocacy. In our call for educational equity, we continue to see individuals being used as success stories and their individual success amplified. But what got them to that point? It’s about time we identified, measured, and scaled what’s working to support student success.
Name: Isiah Thomas
KIPP School: Newark Collegiate Academy Newark, NJ
Isiah is a 22-year-old artist trying to find his way in the world. He enjoys reading, gaming, and everything art. So far, he has practiced visual art and performing art, and is now dabbling into music. He’s been practicing art since he was in middle school at TEAM Academy. Through Isiah’s work, he wants to bring attention through systematic and racial injustices experienced by BIPOC. In his song, ‘MinD GaMeZ’, he confronts the notion of ‘everything that we do starts from the mind. Whether it be speech or action.’ By painting the picture of perspectives. He believes we always dream, we always play puzzle and strategy games, but most of all, we always rely on perspectives. The perspectives of the world shapes it into what it is today. Through his music, it’s his way of sharing a new perspective, an idea that the control we live under is just within the minds of oppressive forces.
Name: Alexis Russell
KIPP School: KIPP DC KEY Academy
Alexis is a passionate story enthusiast, mother, artist, and writer who authentically leads with words. Today, she is the Founder and CEO of Inspiring Experiences, LLC — a company focused on helping people elevate their voices, uncover their most authentic stories, and value themselves. Alexis earned her Women in Entrepreneurship Certificate from Cornell University, studied sociology, anthropology, and psychology at the Rochester Institute of Technology for 4 years, and served as a national and global conference speaker and panelist. The Museum of You is her latest project with an expected official launch in late 2021. The purpose is to capture the stories of everyday people and amplify their voices, stories, and experiences. The Museum of You, will show everyone has value, purpose, and a story to share. Stories connect us to each other and have the power to heal and free us from internal barriers that prevent us from being our whole, authentic, and vulnerable selves. The Museum of You is about healing through inspiration, creating genuine bonds, expanding our empathy and compassion, and connecting through personal storytelling.
Link to her latest project: The Museum of You
By: Miranda Genao, B.A., City College of New York. Miranda is a KIPP NYC alum and a KIPP Foundation 2020 intern.