The Determined Divas

The Determined Divas

Eight troubled and often violent girls, struggling to better themselves through a city program, share their hopes and experiences. (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)

Knife wounds, school expulsions and parental abuse are all chapters in the life stories told by eight young women participating in a Rochester, New York-based youth initiative, The Determined Divas. The program is administrated by Bev Jackson, herself a victim of unhealthy circumstances as a child. She teaches the teens how to use their “Diva skills” to turn away from gangs and other negative consequences of their behavior. She preaches personal responsibility, and using nonviolent ways to resolve conflict. Simple concepts such as asking for help when you need help, and getting up in the morning and going to school, resonate with these children, who have lacked supervision or boundaries in their lives.

This Rochester Democrat & Chronicle video album contains short individual clips of each of the eight girls and Jackson, their mentor, shot on an empty set against a seamless backdrop, magnifying the stark quality of their personal stories. The videos incorporate visual techniques such as extreme close-ups, soft focus and abstract framing to accentuate the in-your-face quality of their monologues. The girls’ straightforward accounts — delivered while staring directly at the camera — are both chilling and hopeful. Although they describe mostly wretched experiences as children, all express a willingness to give life another try with help from the group. Jackson considers herself to be a poster child for redemption, telling her charges, “If I made it, trust me, you can make it.”

CHANNEL: Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Produced by Will Yurman
Reporting by by Jim Memmott


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