This is the first of a series of four Neighborhood Lens galleries of photos taken by the Running Rebels Youth Advisory Council (YAC) as part of an adapted photovoice project. Photovoice is a participatory action research method where individuals and/or communities determine community challenges and strengths through photographic documentation. The photos are analyzed, discussed and categorized by the residents into themes that highlight areas of importance. Often used as a tool for community empowerment and for raising awareness to bring about social change, photovoice reinforces the importance of allowing residents and communities to determine what’s important and why through their own photos, discussions and words.

Half of the YAC members grew up in Lindsay Heights, and all of them spend significant time in Lindsay Heights through their proud affiliation with Running Rebels. The youth who grew up in Lindsay Heights served as our leaders, and picked specific neighborhood areas to visit. The youth were then allowed to wander and take photos. Later, the photos were printed and the youth reflected on questions from the first half of the Photovoice “SHOWED” analysis method, writing photo captions to highlight 1) what you first see in the photo 2) the deeper story behind the photo and 3) what this says about the community and why this is happening. The YAC members then shared the thought processes behind their photos with each other and determined bigger themes that connect the photos within categories of “neighborhood challenges,” “neighborhood improvement” and “neighborhood strengths.”

The YAC asked us to first feature the “Neighborhood Challenges” gallery and end with the “Neighborhood Strengths” gallery (a fourth gallery will focus on the YAC).

In the Neighborhood Challenges gallery, the youth came up with themes: “Broken,” “People don’t care how it looks — so it looks like we’re an uncaring community,” “Abandoned” and “Gang Territory.” They spoke to how the gallery of neighborhood challenges, while indicative of problems, also reflects how they hear Lindsay Heights described over and over again in the media. They hope that together, the galleries will educate people about challenges and motivate action, and also highlight neighborhood strengths that should be better publicized. After seeing the galleries, Running Rebels director Victor Barnett echoed the youths’ call to action and noted that the photos also suggest a need for greater communication between city officials and youth.

We hope you will check back each week to see the galleries that show other ways that YAC members see Lindsay Heights: as home, as a neighborhood with strong community organizations and vibrant beauty, and a neighborhood where the optimism of youth is one of its greatest strengths.

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