Peace movement goes global

By Senah Yeboah-Sampong

ONE STUDENT IS using her work to mind the gap between urban youth  in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Jessica Disu, a sophomore arts, entertainment and media management major, founded the advocacy group the Chicago International Youth Peace Movement this summer. Disu will represent the group at the Leeds Young Authors annual black history showcase Oct. 29- Nov. 7 in England.

Disu, who is also an internationally touring hip-hop artist who goes by the stage name FM Supreme, will share her stories and accounts of Chicago’s urban youth with others in Brixton and Leeds.

“Even though I always represented for the movement, I never foresaw that my music would be connected to my life’s work,” Disu said.

She said she hopes the trip will lead to increased participation of young U.K. poets in the Louder Than a Bomb Youth Poetry Festival in Chicago during spring 2013.

Jacinda Bullie, co-director of Kuumba Lynx, an organization dedicated to arts education, said the trip marks the first time a youth member has created a mission around the role of hip-hop in cross-cultural community building.

“Trips like these can strengthen commitment to your own neighborhood and block,” Bullie said. “It’s important that youth get that exposure and have that understanding that they have allies, and they’re not in this alone and the possibilities of impacting and inspiring or changing things come from a collective.”

Bullie sees positive self-identity, critical awareness and a sense of purpose as worldwide struggles of youth and as sentiments Disu intends to nurture on her trip.

Disu toured London in 2009 and bonded with Leeds Young Authors creative director Khadijah Ibrahim, who inspired her to visit the U.K. Disu will pay for her ticket through CD sales, wristbands and show revenue, she said.

“I don’t have thousands of dollars for plane tickets, but this movement has to happen,” she said. “So whether I have to dip into my savings or take a loan out, we will be on the plane.”

Disu started CIYPM when she heard about the June 28 shooting of 7-year-old Heaven Sutton in Chicago.

Disu met Tyler Babb, a sophomore film & video major, a year ago, and the two recently worked together on framing the CIYPM’s first message for kids to stay positive while pursuing their dreams. The “No Turning Back” music video premiered at the CIYPM kick-off event Sep. 25.

Babb said Disu wanted to incorporate all of Chicago into the video, with an emphasis on kids living in the South and West sides, consistent with the CIYPM’s message of a positive sense of self-identity and direction.

“[Disu has] all of these ideas in her head, so she needs a visual,” Babb said. “I tried my best to give her that visual.”

Disu and Babb both knew they were artists at an early age. Growing up in Belvidere, Ill., an 8-year-old Babb knew he would make movies for the rest of his life, he said.

Disu said she began rapping at age 10 and performing at 12. As a teen, she aspired to speak authentically about endemic economic, racial and gender inequalities, their consequences and the battle to overcome them, she added.

“[Disu is] from Chicago’s South Side, and I’m from a small farm town,” Babb said. “But we’re both trying to do a positive thing. That’s where we mesh and… connect.”

David Stovall, an educational policy studies professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, knew Disu as a member of Young Chicago Authors, which provides youth with writing, publishing and performance education. He said her experiences were reflected in her poetry.

“She [was] clear on the capacity of her work to support efforts around [social] justice,” said Stovall, who is a member of the CIYPM hosting committee.

Stovall said Disu is a teaching artist, and her creative activism addresses worldwide oppression.

“I think one way to push back on [oppressive forces] is to support efforts of community members on the ground in defining and determining what it is they need,” he said.

Disu said she inherited her teaching motto of “peace, unity, love and respect” from Kuumba Lynx, which she said is partially responsible for making the U.K. trip a reality. She attributed her success to her faith in God  and hip-hop.

“I’m just getting the ball rolling and [taking] things as far as I can through our lord Jesus Christ and hip-hop music,” Disu said. “That’s what the Youth Peace Movement is all about.”