In Freetown, a group of young political activists hold regular meetings in a small zinc schoolhouse that is emblematic of their struggle to educate Sierra Leonean youth. The organization, called “Genesis,” consists of eight men and women – all between 20 and 30 years old – who aspire to use film as a medium for teaching young people to condemn political violence, protect their environment, and act as responsible members of their communities. All of them have their high school diploma. None of them have jobs or the means of pursuing further education. They are hopeful about the future of their country, but history has taught them that powerful currents of poverty, violence and corruption are capable of dragging Salone down. Oseh Wilson, an aspiring young actress in the group, hopes to further her acting career while safeguarding the future of her country: “We have gone through a lot. So, we don’t want history to repeat itself again.”
Above, members of Genesis rehearse a scene from their newest film project.
Given recent political violence in the provinces and the nervous anticipation of election-time unrest, the members of Genesis are keen to bring their message to youth across the country. For group’s Music Director, Dominic Brown, the message is simple: “Go and vote peacefully…that is your own right. You do not have the right to fight each other.” He and the group’s CEO, Samuel George, stress the fact that politicians in Sierra Leone have historically manipulated the youth, using drugs and alcohol to foment violence that intimidates voters and embarrasses political opponents. For the members of Genesis, social change needs to come from the bottom, up. They hope that when young people say no to violence, politicians will be forced to change their ways.
by Jonathan Forney