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journey2home Record Release Show @ Jr. Music Executive.

January 29, 2015

Spause - Journey2Home-13Text and images by Brianna Spause.

journey2home, a year-long public art project generated by the Mural Arts Program, drew to a close last Friday night with a CD release party hosted by Jr. Music Executive.

Spause - Journey2Home-1Cheerful conversation buzzed out of JME’s new permanent home at Cohesive Collections and spilled out onto Vine Street as approximately 30 artists, mentors and partners gathered in celebration. Hot off the press, a stack of journey2home compilation CDs were arranged proudly at the door as smiling faces and offers of congratulations steadily rolled in.

The goal of journey2home was to engage the community in a conversation about the startling issue of youth homelessness and housing insecurity in Philadelphia. Efforts that engaged more than 50 Philadelphia youths began in August 2013, and blossomed into a mural titled “Home Safe” that was erected on 42nd and Brown streets, a documentary film, monthly art installations, and eight powerful tracks off of the journey2home compilation CD.

For lead artist Mike O’Bryan, the key to social change is about creating a bi-directional music conversation.

“I think what was cool about the process for this project was that there are so many ways the youth can be involved,” O’Bryan said. “There are so many ways, consequently, through our networks that we can have adults – who love music and who know the industry – be involved with the young people.”

Through trauma-informed music workshops and discussions, O’Bryan, his partners and an empowered youth cohort were able to create the soundtrack to a larger multimedia project generated by the MAP.

“We all had different areas of expertise that we brought to the table,” O’Bryan said, fondly recalling the efforts of Jim Wells from Blackboard Labs, who specialized in teaching the youths production and creative writing, and Aisha Winfield of JME, who organized discussions about marketing and the life of music post-creative moment.

The quality of the CD that spun loudly in the background of the release party was top-notch and battled with the excitable conversation floating about the room. The contrast between an easy listening melody and a chilling message in “Warzone,” the lead track on the album, illuminated the true talent in the room.

Zhane McPhil, 16, was nervous when she joined the journey2home project. Zhane is the face of the powerful vocals in “Warzone” and a strong young woman that knows the harsh reality of struggling with housing insecurity.

“I don’t usually sing in front of people,” Zhane said. “I would sing to myself. It was new to sing to other people and I guess I never realized how much of a release it was. What better way to get through to people than music? Because everyone listens to music and everyone seems to understand music more than just listening to you talk about [your struggles].”

Rodney Burney, 15, identifies with Zhane on the ability of art to express himself.

“If people really feel what I’m saying in songs, people will want to get with me and make music together,” Rodney said of his rapping on tracks like “Warzone” and three others on the album. “It’s gonna feel good to hear the tracks because people can feel what I’m rapping about. That’s a good feeling, hearing feedback.”

As the CD spun to its end and impressively large stacks of pizza loomed in the background, the journey2home project met its final end.

“There are a lot of assumptions around the experience of homelessness,” O’Bryan said. “We have all of these opinions, and make judgments whether we like it or not. I think as artists, it’s our job to try to spread these [young people’s] narratives and to help give people the proper lenses to deal with human beings on the street. I think that’s what this whole project is about. I’m more passionate, more than ever in my life, to make sure their stories are honored and told safely.”

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