Tell me about yourself! How did you get on the path your own today? Tell me about Youth Speaks!

My name is Jada Imani, I am the Co-Founder of Tatu Vision, an MC, a dancer, and a culture worker.  I was born in Belleville, Illinois and I spent half of my childhood in Illinois and Missouri.  While a preteen, I moved with my family to South Berkeley.  It was shocking for me come to the Bay because as there was not much diversity or creativity where I’m from.  For that reason, I was pushed to embrace it. It’s been such a journey to find my path. The first community I opened up to was Youth Spirit Artworks. It challenged me to express myself through leadership and art.  I remember the first theme was freedom- my mentor Victor asked “what does freedom look like when you put this pen to the paper? Do it.”  That was the first time I felt no thinking and pure flow since a young child.

So I began to embrace songwriting, poetry, leadership and hosting more.  Around that time my older brother Maleik Dion and my sister-friend Stoney Creation began writing rhymes and they supported me a lot as well.  We teamed up and encouraged each other to take it to the next level by forming Tatu Vision Collective.  I soon transitioned from Youth Spirit Artworks to Youth Speaks.

Youth Speaks is a powerful and multi-faceted organization focused around arts education, youth development, civic engagement, and artistic excellence. Youth Speaks was born in San Francisco 21 years ago and it still preserves the powerful intention it was founded on. Youth Speaks provides safer spaces for young people of different backgrounds to speak their truth through writing workshops, school residencies, mentorship, an annual teen poetry slam, campaigns and more.


What have you learned recently from someone else?

Healing is a nonlinear process with steps forward and back, as we are constantly challenged by this world to become whole. However, as we live with awareness, we constantly evolve.


What inspired you to do community based work and to be an artist/musician?

I’ve had a passion for music and artistic visions for as long as I can remember. However for years I was very quiet and experienced an isolating disconnect between the inner me and the outside world.  Over time and with intention however, I saw myself transform and break free through healing arts, self-expression, self-study, and community building.  It made me want to assist others in their transformation as well.  


What do you do to stay strong and resilient?

I surround myself with love, dance, music and community as much as possible.  I also grow resilient through devotion personal practice. I also keep the vision of community empowerment and self-sustainability as a priority in order to stay inspired.


What are some major problems do you think young people face today?

I think young people are targeted by many negative influences such as the school to prison pipeline, the junk food industry, and the music industry which promotes drug culture, violence, and misogyny.  Young people navigate the complexity of social media and the desensitization, distraction and apathy that may come with. The most popular trends often encourage numbness and lack of awareness.  Many of young people’s minds are exposed to so much at once without space to process, play, or have as many real-life healthy examples of self-development.


What is your main concern when it comes to environmental issues?

I am concerned about the strategic segregation of people based on race and class to live in inequitable situations and the denial of holistic/sustainable environmental solutions for pursuit of profit.


Tell us about what you are doing or involved in to make a difference in your community? What are some of the solutions to these problems you brought up?

I first and foremost work diligently on myself each day in order to embody the solution I think is needed in our world right now.  I cannot be fear in a society torn by fear- I must be love. I also open up and share as much as I can.  Through Tatu Vision, I create and host spaces at least in my twice a month which are all ages and donation based.  Each month we unite as a community to celebrate our beauty, resilience, local artists, and forward-thinking creativity.  We noticed there are toxins in the dominant culture which perpetuate a cycle of sexism, xenophobia and separation through fear and ignorance.  So we intentionally spaces which offer an alternative culture of inclusivity, empowerment and unity.


What kinds of advice would you give to other youth that are trying to make a difference?

I would say firstly to focus on cultivating solutions rather than giving your precious energy to fight problems.  Your mind is powerful. Visualize what you desire and be creative with your ideas.  You can be the first to make it if it doesn’t yet exist.  Also embrace the not knowing as much as the knowing so that you keep learning. Lastly, love yourself deeply and see yourself in everyone else.


What does criminalization means to you?

I think it is the process of making a person into a “criminal” by imposing labels and accusations.