Thursday, January 7, 2010

“The Creative Forces In Me” By Mai-Lien Johnson, Age 17, Peer Educator

For three years I have been in this group and we do what we like to do best, PLAY. We are Creative Forces (or “CF” for short), and we are teenagers from different backgrounds and different parts of New Orleans. We create performances that not only entertain people, they deal with information and issues people care about. For example, we created a musical drama called “Lifelines” about a teen facing up to her asthma. We created an African drumming workshop that teaches basic physics. We composed a hip-hop concert called “Silence Speaks” about the roots of urban violence. Through CF, we get to write songs, poems, scenes and whatever else we can come up with; and then perform them for our peers, adults, seniors and all kinds of different people.

I fell in love with CF quickly and decided to stick with it, and I have been satisfied ever since. We’ve been to Atlanta, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and we get paid to do what we love. We meet other youth leaders and artists trying to do the exact same thing that we’re doing. We get to show our peers and people of all ages how to take learning to a whole different level. If you can’t read, no problem, we’ll act it out for you; if you can’t sit still, we’ll involve you in the performance. If something needs to change, we’ll enlist you.

I know you may think this is strange; it took me a while to get used to it. But after my very first performance, things began to flourish: I mean, those children love us. Wherever we go, as soon as they see us wearing those fun-looking CF-yellow t-shirts they run up to us with high fives. If we’ve been to their school before they will chant our songs back to us from the last time. As we leave, they promise to take our advice and live healthier lives. And the adults --- well, anything that entertains children, keeps them quiet and helps them learn makes adults happy too.

For the past four years Creative Forces’ headquarters has been New Orleans Charter and Math High school, but because we have started to become known, we are expanding. We have recently moved to Frederick Douglass High School so that we can support hundreds more young people from across the city.

Teenagers are natural performers, but we are also great teachers. Now that we have the historic 1,600-seat Douglass High School auditorium to work in, the CF vision is to bring together a generation of phenomenal teens who can learn from and teach one another at the same time. If you haven’t figured it out yet, CF is going to be a global thing. We are out to make learning more creative for everyone across the world.

Check us out on MySpace ( and our official Website at the Crossroads Project (

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