The Young Masters, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3), community-based, non-profit organization that seeks to nurture and empower 21st Century artists. Although we were hatched in the creative Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C. we have no borders.
The first circle of the Young Masters was created through Ann Dickerson's Second Time Around Boutique. It provided the vision and mother to our program. Nurturing and empowering young Artists was in an embryo phase in the “Boutique” days and Annie’s Boutique children – Denise Johnson, Julee Dickerson-Thompson, and Kamala Subramanian would take that mission and expand on it through the Young Masters. (Kamala Subramanian and Julee Dickerson-Thompson came from Workshops for Careers in the Arts—the prelude to Duke Ellington School of the Arts and also a model inspiration for the Young Masters, Inc.)
When it comes to family cooperatives, Shule Yaa Ukuu provided an added dimension to the arts vision. The “Home School” and extended-family values that evolved from that experience became the foundation for workshops and outreach projects. The three critical organizers of this experience, Dominique/Johari Griffith, Mudiwah Kadeshe, and once again Julee Dickerson-Thompson carried the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles) into the Young Masters, Inc. The Babas/Fathers brought strength and wisdom as the added a critical family component.
In 1979 Annie and Julee began a cottage industry creating Brown Spice Dolls and Dudes. Ten years later Christy Aden encouraged them to do doll making workshops for girls and boys. These popular workshops became known as The Brown Spices Elves’ Workshops. The Brown Spices Workshops developed into arts workshops and the young artists that were developed became the first generation of Young Masters.
Brown spices elves' workshops
The Brown Spices Elves' Workshops began in 1979 with a doll-making workshop from the Brown Spices dolls and dudes craft industry. By 1992 the young artists had become so experienced that they moved into teaching roles. The experiment was so much fun that it became a trademark of the Young Masters. Over the years the Young Masters have had numerous workshops in homes, parks, classrooms, and beyond. Their work has been featured in publications, galleries, and several museums including the Smithsonian. Youthful teachers as young as 6 have thrilled and humored us with their commitment and creative classes. They became fearless about their own entrepreneurship and confident in their Art.
Rites of passage programs
The Young Masters, Inc. had their first Rites of Passage Program in 1993, IYABO. Since then, there have been several other generations continuing this adolescence into adulthood experience. Most recently one of the first "initiates" from the IYABO Rites of Passage, Folami Ford, came back to resurrect the program with the 2009 "SANKOFA" generation. The Young Masters has one of the only co-ed Rite of Passage programs. The Rites of Passage is based on the African American traditional experience of guiding our youth from childhood through adolescence and preparing them to be responsible and thoughtful adults.
The Brookland Homecoming Bridge
In 1997, the Young Masters began to develop concept proposals to revitalize the Monroe Street Bridge and other gateways to the Brookland community in Northeast, Washington, D.C. The original plan was to memorialize the far too many and often ignored murdered Black youths in our community.
The events of 2001 changed the urgency and necessity of healing through ART when the community and our nation seemed to sustain constant, devastating loss. First, Ashambei Nimmey-Roots Griffith, a Young Masters star lost his life in a heartbreaking bicycling accident on his way to college classes. Shortly afterwards, the September 11th Tragedy struck the community personally when Asia Cotton, a local student, perished in the attack.
With the weight of mourning at home and the launch of a war in the Middle East, the Young Masters felt that it was necessary to pay tribute to those who passed and give hope to those who remained. In overnight sessions, the designers “bombed” the Monroe Street Bridge with ART, and during the day, children painted to give hope to a community in mourning.
For the next 13 years, the Young Masters continued to add tributes to the Monroe Street Bridge. Students from St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School and the local, afterschool Akebulan Academy painted stars for their loved ones. Children added their handprints to welcome visitors to the community. Celebrated artists like Luis Peralta, Kamala Subramanian, Janali Thompson, Francine Haskins, DeeJ Wright, and Julee Dickerson-Thompson contributed to the living memorial.
Over the years, the conceptual design expanded to include domestic violence survivors, a nation overwhelmed by violence, war, and school shootings, and African Americans told repeatedly that their lives held no value. When tragedy struck Brookland again at the beloved Colonel Brooks’ Tavern, artists painted tributes to the employees who lost their lives.
The Monroe Street Bridge realized the original dream of the Young Masters. It became a community landmark and a channel for healing and positive energy through ART. With the revitalization of the bridge comes an opportunity to create a tribute that speaks to the capacity of ART to build upon the existing artistic foundation of this Brookland landmark -- the Monroe Street Homecoming Bridge.
re-creation vs recreation / diana's dreams
The Young Masters, Inc. began a tennis program in 2001 with a grant from the Dwight A. Mosley Foundation and the Washington Tennis Association Over the years, largely in partnership with Akebulan Academy the Young Masters have served over several hundred athletes and provided some with jobs and scholarships as a result.
The Dwight A. Mosley Foundation awarded the Young Masters a grant to paint a mural on its tennis courts and simultaneously to provide tennis classes to young athletes so that they could appreciate and enjoy the game, therefore maintaining the facelift that had been provided. Stanley Squirewell and Luis Peralta were chosen to be young muralists. Today they are both internationally recognized artists.