Overtown youths are making moves (movies)
Pictured from Left – Right: Taylor McGhee, Saliha Nelson, Elijah Wells and Martha Whisby-Wells. Taylor is a junior at Barry University, majoring in photography and Elijah has caught the eye of Hollywood insiders such as Robert Townsend. Saliha and Martha are both instrumental in nurturing youths in Overtown to reach their maximum potential.
Photo Credit courtesy of Derek Cole Photography
By Jimmie Davis, Jr.
At times when the egg doesn’t hatch it’s placed in a controlled environment until it emerges, and synonymously Black youths that reside in Overtown are challenged with surviving under difficult living conditions and some of them may never reach their full potential in life.
Therefore, the South East Overtown Park West Community Redevelopment Agency [SEOPW CRA] along with the Urban Renewal Greater Enhancement National Team [URGENT] has an incubator where students can cultivate and give birth to their dreams and aspirations of having a career in the film industry, an artist or being an entrepreneur.
Elijah Wells, 16, a 10th grade student attending Miami Arts Charter School has written two short films entitled “Welcome to Miami and The Gift”.
Additionally, Taylor McGhee, 20, has written a short film entitled “Alters”. In 2010 she attended a summer initiative called Cine-lab where she honed in on her film making skills.
Wells a recent graduate of Overtown’s Film Arts Culture Entrepreneurship [FACE] Summer Youth Training Institute submitted his film to the American Black Film Festival [ABFF] and won 1st place.
“I want to change the concept of people believing that everybody in Overtown is gangbangers,” said Wells during the FACE Summer Youth Training Institute Expo, which was held at the Camillus House in Miami. “Overtown has a lot of talent, but you only hear and read about the negative aspects of our community.”
His film was also featured at the Colony Theater in South Beach, which is one of Miami’s finest performance arts facilities that present shows from all genres.
Wells says he would not have made it this far without the help of his beloved mother who actually encouraged and sheltered him.
“I’ve started Elijah Wells Films,” he said. “This is my own film production company that just got incorporated.”
Martha Whisby-Wells knew as her son grew older he would have to come to terms with societal ills so she made plans for him along the way in the arena of the entertainment world; after all she is an accomplished Gospel Jazz artist that’s toured with Gloria Estefan.
“I always had my son in a performing arts school,” said Martha. “His love for films just blew up overnight. He’s teaching kids acting and doing motivational speaking. He even received a call on his birthday from Robert Townsend.”
The Summer Youth Initiative is a 6-week paid program for Overtown youth that encompasses 4 phases of the acronym FACE: Film & Production – Arts Institute – Culture Institute and Entrepreneurship Institute.
Also during the Expo summer interns were awarded the opportunity of highlighting their areas of concentration such as the painting of a mural in Dorsey Park home of the former Negro League Baseball in South Florida.
Presentations were given about Black legends of culture in Overtown, the economical impact on tourism in Overtown, and getting capital to create a business venture.
“I’ve been writing films since a freshman in high school,” said McGhee. “I’m inspired by all of the youth that gave presentations today.”
Saliha Nelson, Vice president of URGENT says the summer interns are being groomed to take their skills to the next level which is the ABFF who has been their partner since 2009.
“We are creating pathways for the future of our youth,” Nelson said. “We encourage our youth to take what they have learned back to the community to make a change.”