2015 — student
Kelly Creedon is a Roy H. Park Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing an MA in Visual Communication. As a 2014 Powering a Nation Fellow, she was the Editor-in-Chief and videographer for the award-winning interactive documentary Whole Hog: The Power of Pork. Her work has been recognized by College Photographer of the Year and Pictures of the Year International. Before coming to UNC, she worked as a Boston-based multimedia producer on projects including Localore’s Planet Takeout, which explored the Chinese takeout as a unique cultural crossroads, and We Shall Not Be Moved, which documented the grassroots movement against foreclosure in Boston. She is a 2008 graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
The pink batter swirls in waves as Courvosier Cox moves the handheld mixer in gentle circles around the edge of a plastic mixing bowl. He’s making his favorite dessert: strawberry cake with strawberry frosting. “Tomorrow is my birthday, I’ll be 15,” he explains, “and I’m going to take this cake to school to celebrate with my classmates.” In the corner of the kitchen, the oven is on and the door sits open to heat the small house just north of downtown Durham, North Carolina, where Courvosier, who goes by the nickname Vosiey, lives with his mother and five siblings. His dad is in a 2-year substance abuse rehabilitation program. Like many nights, his mom is working her job as a certified nursing assistant. In the bedroom next to the kitchen, his 18-year-old sister watches TV with her seven-month-old baby. As the cake goes into the oven, his younger brothers, 9 and 4, clamor around Vosiey begging to lick the bowl.
For many young people, being 15 is a watershed year, an exciting and tumultuous time marked by the search for self, construction of identity and longing for acceptance. Being 15 can also bring a new degree of independence and the opportunity to make decisions that can have lasting consequences. This transition to young adulthood can be particularly complicated for young African American boys growing up in today’s complex world.
As a young Black male in the US, Vosiey is one of millions of children likely to face innumerable risk factors that may threaten their physical, mental, and emotional well-being, academic success, and chances to transition into a stable adulthood. Black children are at higher risk of being born into economically disadvantaged families, living in poor neighborhoods, and attending under-resourced, under-performing schools. Young Black men have lower chances of being diagnosed and treated for academic or emotional disabilities, have a higher likelihood of being placed in special education, and are likely to receive harsher punishment in school and in the court system than their White peers. They are more likely to live in high crime areas, raising their risk of both being victims of crime and having negative interactions with police; they are also less likely to have access to a network of strong adult role models.
But Vosiey is determined to be anything but a statistic. He is on a mission to launch his career as an actor, singer, and comedian, a path he is certain will lead him to fame and fortune and help him bring his family up. As he teeters on the tenuous ledge between childhood and young adulthood, he holds on to a sensitivity, vulnerability, and openness that will allow us to experience this transition through his eyes.
I began working with Vosiey shortly before his 15th birthday, and, with the support of this grant, I plan to follow him and his family through the end of his 15th year in November 2015. I plan to produce a multimedia piece that chronicles this transitional time. I believe this intimate and personal story can provide a vehicle to explore some of the challenges facing young African American boys growing up in this time of national debate around racial profiling, mass incarceration, and a pronounced achievement gap. At the same time, as we watch this unique and charismatic young man navigate adolescence, I believe the audience will be challenged to examine and deconstruct some of its own biases and expectations about what it means to be a young Black man in America today.