February at RYSE: Black History Month

For Black History Month, we’re excited to celebrate and spotlight on our blog two youth artists, Anii and Emani, and their newest creative works at RYSE.

Listen to Anii’s new track and Emani’s short story, and check out their artist statements below!


Meet Anii

Ja’shawna Chaney, Age 16
John F. Kennedy High School
RYSE Member since June 2016

On “Wake” (2018):

My dad passed away when I was four. I recently did a song called “Wake” about my dad. I feel like the reason why I made that song is because I want everybody to know that he was a good person and my mom would always talk about him. And he wanted me to be a rapper like he was. My dad made beats and he rapped so if I take on his legacy, become big, it would make him happy in the afterlife. So I feel like he wanted me to grow.

On Her Artistry:

As an artist I hope to tell people to never give up, just keep doing it. Because if you don’t do it, you not gon’ get no where. And if you get out and show people that you a rapper or you a singer you will become big and everyone will see you for you.

On Black History Month:

We [Black people] live everyday with all this police brutality, putting kids in jail for no reason, kids thats been on the streets that have nobody. I feel like this world should be a better place than it is now.


Meet Emani

Emani Mason, Age 14
Lovonya Dejean Middle School
RYSE Member since July 2017

On the Importance of Storytelling for Black Folks:

I think storytelling is important so you can tell people about things they don’t see and don’t experience on a daily basis, and to show the injustice and good parts of the world. A lot of things that Black people endure, other people don’t see.

Black people are really closed so we don’t say anything when we feel we’ve been wronged or hurt and I think somebody should speak up and say, “Hey this thing happened to me and I’m Black and I know it happened because I’m Black.”

On Telling Her Story:

I had cancer and a lot of people don’t like saying that because people will ask questions. For me I was insecure when I was bald and I wore a lot of hats and wigs. And I think other kids are insecure. It doesn’t feel right to go outside with nothing on your head because people will stare, and as a girl it’s even more hard. I think telling my story is healing. If someone with cancer when they were a kid heard this story, I think they would feel better about losing their hair.

February at RYSE:

This past month, RYSE youth artists performed their poetry and dance at the 2nd Annual Black Joy Parade in downtown Oakland, and also at RYSE alongside Dontè Clark in celebration of his newest book KNOWFREEDOM.

RYSE also held College Week, a week of panels, workshops, and a resource fair to increase access to learning about higher education, and the resources available to those who interested in applying for college.

We also hosted our Spring Youth Leadership Institute, engaging young leaders in workshops around social justice, gender justice, organizing, and movement building. Together, they worked to expand their consciousness, leadership skills, and held space for holistic healing and cultural identity development.

Earlier this month, RYOT Fellow Geo Jones facilitated a LCAP townhall breakout session at Pinole Middle School, leading adults and youth in a discussion on how LCAP funding can be spent to better support students.

Plus, shoutout to our former youth members and current RYSE staff Gemikia Henderson, Tj Sykes, and Dalia Ramos! Gemikia spoke at Adobe’s “Black People Create” on the necessity of inclusion and representation in creative spaces. Tj participated at Obama Foundation’s MBK Rising, which featured speakers such as President Obama, Stephen Curry, and more. And Dalia shared about the importance of her experience through RYSE’s Leadership Pipeline at the launch of California’s Healthy Start Initiative with Assemblymember Buffy Wicks.

Check out some of the photos from this month!

Upcoming Event


Support RYSE at our Annual Fundraiser
Be A Kid: “Glow the Funk Up”

For one night only, experience the fun and interactive programs our youth members enjoy on a daily basis. Plus, this year we’re including a Disco Roller Rink! Learn more here.

WHEN:  Friday, April 12th, from 6 - 10 PM
WHERE:  RYSE Center, 205 41st St. Richmond, CA 94805

Early Bird Tickets start at only $20 and include food and 1 drink ticket.

All proceeds support our free services for young people.

Want to sponsor or donate to our fundraiser? We’d love your support.
Email Michelle at michelle[at]rysecenter[dot]org.