Elissa's dream takes her to Trench Town

By Indi McLymont
Staff reporter

Monday, October 14, 2002

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Thirty four-year-old entertainment lawyer, Elissa Blount-Moorhead, walked away from a promising career to follow her dream of pursuing art.
Following that dream has led her to Jamaica, where for a month she and her team from Red Clay Art will be teaching innercity children photography, photojournalism, new media and experimental artistic expression.

"She is a dynamic person and very talented. She inspires me. She left her job at BET (Black Entertainment Television) to do something that would impact more on people. She is doing a very good job at Red Clay. Sometimes people don't even know how much she puts in," husband and technical director, Mario Moorhead, told All Woman.
Red Clay is a Brooklyn based arts non-profit organisation, with about 10 vibrant members.
It is headed by Blount-Moorhead, who is the Executive Director.

"I have been given that title for about a year not but really and truly every body pitches in to get work done. We all function as at team. We are more like a community and I am a galvaniser but not a 'ruler' per se," the soft spoken, natural beauty said.
In a very relaxed interview she told All Woman that she had come up with the idea of taking the arts programme to Jamaica because of the strong ties between Brooklyn and Jamaica.
"For every year we want to go to a place where people are either forgotten or not negatively portrayed. We work with them and try to get their impressions of through art," she explained.

"When we decided on Trench Town we got a lot of discouragement because people saw it as a violent place. But we went anyway and it has been going very well. The kids are careful of the equipment and nothing has been stolen. In fact the community takes care of us - the people bring us food and so on because they realise that we are trying to help them," she said.
The six member team from Brooklyn came down with about six video cameras and a computer for the two locations in Jamaica where they will spend the two weeks each at both places. The places are Trench Town in Kingston and White Horses in Westmoreland.

During the two week intensive workshops (after school and on weekends) students will create individual and group art/stories and written narratives, communicate with students from other countries via internet 'digital pen pals', learn to evaluate and critique their work, receive instruction in art curation and publish work online and in digital forms to create a virtual gallery of art, The students are between the ages of 13 and 17, with six students at each site. At the end of the programme, exchange exhibitions will be held with Jamaican students work being shown at Red Clay arts website at an exhibition inside the Trench Town Library at 4:00 pm, October 30, for public viewing.

According to Blount-Moorhead while a salary had not yet been set for her as Executive Director, she found her job very rewarding.
"We know the work we're doing is needed as a means of empowerment for the young people. Especially now. When it seems people are undergoing trouble or stress, those are the times they need to express themselves."
She also shared some of the other work that Red Clay was doing in Brooklyn.
"We have taken the issue of catcalling and we are stimulating debates between the sexes. We use film, skits, dance and so on to do shows in schools and different places to highlight the way women feel about catcalling," she said.
"We try to let them see how it can make the woman into an object and demean her. We try to get from them why they do it and in some cases we even have a walk of shame where we get the men to walk down the street and let the woman catcall and throw remarks at them".
"A lot of them rethought their opinion of it after that," she said.
Her motivation for her work she said was based on the fact that her artistic talents had been encouraged by strong persons all her life.

"We also try to work with young girls and the impact for example that catcalling has on them. Before they are fully women they have to face older men hitting on them. This can have serious psychological effects. So we try to help them," she said, "Part of the reason why I do it is because at every stage of my life there was someone who believed in me and when I get tired I remember that. I see where I was when I see some of these kids."

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