M. O. M. I. E. Magic in the Nation’s capital

DC's nonprofit arts community is reaching out into the streets, pulling young black, brown and yellow talent into storefront art houses and transforming their lives.

M. O. M. I. E.’s TLC co-founders Ayeze Subatr, and Chitra Subramanian, with Baba Jamal Alston and Lauren Kendricks. (Photo credit: Malcolm Lewis Barnes)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2015 – Something extraordinary is taking place on the streets and within the storefront service economy in Washington, D.C. The city’s nonprofit arts community is reaching out into the streets and pulling young black, brown and yellow talent into storefront art houses with the aim of transforming the lives of our city’s youth.

One case in point is an organization founded by Chitra Subramanian, an Indian immigrant to this country currently serving as the executive director of Mentors of Minorities In Education’s Total Learning Cis-tem, aka “M. O. M. I. E.’s TLC” at 2616 Georgia Ave., NW, just across the street from my old stomping grounds at the Howard University School of Business. M.O.M.I.E. has been around since 2000 and has been headquartered on Georgia Avenue for a year and a half.

Also a cofounder of the organization, Chitra Subramanian explained that Mentors of M. O. M. I. E.’s TLC is an innovative, community-based transformative educational program for inner city youth ranging from ages 3 to 18.

Students taking part in M. O. M. I. E.'s TLC program. (Credit: Malcolm Lewis Barnes)
Students taking part in M. O. M. I. E.’s TLC program. (Credit: Malcolm Lewis Barnes)

“The Mission of M. O. M. I. E. is to nurture the genius of children through creating a transformative learning experience,” said Chitra. who also gave considerable credit to the organization’s other cofounder, Ayeze Subatr who, as a Morehouse University graduate, was inspired to create a new education model based on humanities, social justice and history for children as young as 3 years old.

M. O. M. I. E.’s TLC was also the culmination of work undertaken by Laura Kendricks, a graduate student at American University who serves as the program’s Teaching Artist with support from the DC Humanities Council’s “Soul of the City” program. M. O. M. I. E. runs creative and culturally relevant summer and year-round programs for its young charges. “Three-year-olds are learning about social justice and great people,” said Chitra proudly. “We support young people in their academics, leadership and conflict resolution.”

“We also incorporate meditation and help children come to fruition by allowing them to tell their personal stories through visual narratives,” Chitra added. “The idea for us is to help them understand where they come from [so] they will be on a better path. By immersing them in these learning experiences [we believe] they will make better decisions later.”

Teaching artist Lauren Kendricks added, “I was taking a community documentary course, and we came in and worked with parents to talk through a transformative moment in their lives. Then we worked with the students to do the same thing. During the summer we worked with these children on how media works in this culture.

“We broke down what media really was,” she said, “by training them on how to do interviews. [We] then went through the writing process of writing their stories out and practiced by taking photos and [moving to] the pre-production stage to come up with an idea involving storyboarding. Then we went to the production phase, collected the data and used their narrative in the media that they wanted to use and recorded their voice-overs. Next, we worked with iMovie and Final Cut Pro [software] where the students were responsible for media management and collecting the video clips.”

The program described by Lauren Kendricks had 19 participants, and all the students had a shot at making a presentation. The course began June 29 and culminated six weeks later with this group of amazingly polished and mature kids ranging from ages 11 to 17 doing stand-up introductions to their personal video stories.

In the organization’s TLC, “We teach about greatness and we believe that greatness starts within the family,” Chitra philosophically concluded, something that became clear to me as I witnessed proud mothers and fathers embracing their children’s genius on Georgia Avenue in a mind-blowing, real-time demonstration of what our current “American Idol” generation can accomplish if given the tools and the opportunity.

I left the event feeling blessed to have had the opportunity to witness and report on how uplifting a truly transformative educational experience can looks and feel.

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