Voices of Youth: Going "Beyond the Mask" of young people's emotions

This article is part of Concentrate's Voices of Youth series, which features content created by Washtenaw County youth in partnership with Concentrate staff mentors, as well as feature stories by adult writers that examine issues of importance to local youth. In this installment, student artist Jah'Niya Treadwell shares her art about the ways young people may mask their emotions from adults and others.

"Beyond the Mask" by Jah'Niya Treadwell.

Project title: Beyond the Mask

What is this piece of artwork about? What inspired you to make it? What inspired me to create "Beyond the Mask" was to showcase the emotions that youth tend to portray. Some youth can portray both good and bad emotions. It is often thought that we as youth bury our true feelings by appearing to be happy, when we are sad. This is true; however, I want to shine the light that sometimes, through peer pressure, youth can attempt to make themselves fit in by acting as if they are depressed, angry, tough, or sad, because they see attention is given to those who express these types of emotions.

"Beyond the Mask" by Jah'Niya Treadwell.

As you look at the drawings you see both a male and female appearing one way yet actually feeling something different. I incorporated a male image as well because sometimes there is a misconception that only females deal with emotional things. It is often a challenge for us as youth to truly express how we feel without being labeled or having our current emotions not be validated. Youth in the area have told me that when trying to be open about how they feel, people tend to want to try to fix them as opposed to just allowing them to feel what they are currently feeling.

I had the opportunity to participate with other youth in a session called "I Wish You Knew." It was a space where youth could express to the adults in their life that yelling and not listening when we try to speak about our feelings is not helpful. May this piece inspire the adults to remember their youth and "What They Wish the Adults in Their Lives Knew" that would have helped them to go "Beyond the Mask."

Who are you as an artist? My name is Jah'Niya Treadwell. I am a 12-year-old young lady and a native Ypsilanti resident. I enjoy all forms of art. Having my parents as my primary educators has given me the freedom to explore all forms of art. I choose to create whatever is on my mind through various forms such as drawing, painting, photography, videos, and my newest found interest, digital imaging. In my spare time you can catch me on my bed drawing the world around me.

Concentrate staffer Yen Azzaro served as Jah'Niya's mentor on this project.

To learn more about Concentrate's Voices of Youth project and read other installments in the series, click 
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