SMASH STREET BOYS FESTIVAL

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ASSOCIATED PRESS (press release)

New York City communities are coming together to acknowledge the boys surviving in the international sex trades and with the devastating consequences of HIV/AIDS

NEW YORK — Throughout North America, one in six males is sexually violated by the age of 16. More alarming, many boys are immersed and trafficked in the sex industries and at an extremely high risk for contracting and dying from HIV/AIDS-defining illnesses, substance abuse and suicide. From the beginning of violence through death, boys typically suffer in silence, with no hope of appropriate or consistent medical care, justice or safety. The TRISTAN’S MOON art installation, showcasing stories expressed by boys trapped in the sex trades, is the catalyst behind the disturbing yet powerful Real Stories Gallery Foundation 501(c)(3) grassroots festival emerging in New York City. “THE SMASH STREET BOYS FESTIVAL will be, as TRISTAN’S MOON has proved to be, a life-changing experience for anyone who witnesses it,” says Dr. Rachel Chapple, Real Stories founder, anthropologist and mother of four children (three boys).

THE SMASH STREET BOYS FESTIVAL acknowledges the creativity and guts of boys forced to survive in abusive adult environments, and their extraordinary empathy and compassion. “We have much to learn from these remarkable young survivors, whose ingenious survivor-led and peer-mentored SHOW ME YOUR LIFE online art program facilitates boys trapped in the international sex trades to express themselves, find their voices and lead each other to safety through their exchange of knowledge,” says Dr. Chapple. “One startling story is the vast majority of abusers are married men with children. This and other realities make the boys’ art & storytelling difficult to witness. But we must follow the boys’ lead and break the silence if we are to prevent our humanity dying from embarrassment, and end the trauma happening on our watch.”

THE SMASH STREET BOYS FESTIVAL will be launched in NYC on Sunday, July 1st. “As we don’t have access to resources or space in an official museum or art gallery, we are experimenting. The boys’ voices came from the streets and will spill onto the cobblestones, showcased as Polaroid Collage Canvasses, Mannequin Sculptures, Video Art, Street Music, dancers, performance artists and spoken-word poets in Human Birdcages,” says Dr. Chapple. “We will acknowledge together, rain or shine, all the boys working in the international sex trades and surviving with HIV.”

THE SMASH STREET BOYS FESTIVAL is evolving daily as local musicians, poets, storytellers and mothers are beginning to brainstorm how to share their skills and spread awareness in their localities. A compassionate foreword for the Real Stories’ HIV initiative has been gifted by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Winner).

CONTACT: Rachel Chapple, PhD at realstoriesgallery@gmail.com

Thank you to our friend for persuading your friends to place our message on the Times Square billboard. "It meant so much to us."

"When survivors shared their stories, some people paused to listen"

 

We want them off the street. The street will kill you if it can and it can.

The other day, we asked them how long it usually took for the pimps to find them.

Answer: about three hours.

Who do you think addicts and traffics them.

Pimps. Organized crime. There are places where they are valuable. Until their HIV is discovered and then they often just disappear.

How many children disappear in the world in a year. No one knows. Academics claim to know. No one knows. The United Nations claims to know, but they're guessing. As human beings with no rights, they are ephemeral. The only power they hold is that they have learned how to be seductive and compelling. Neither one of which is appropriate but in their world. They work hard at survival. You have never seen anyone work harder and then they become, depleted, exhausted, and they will refuse to go another inch. We do not pick them up and push them. We are here to teach them art. And to push them. The other boys pick them up and push them. They are not always successful. We fail a lot.

But we are never still.

We would argue that working with children is working with a subculture. A subculture with its own wisdoms, it's own languages, it's own passions and loves, and its own struggles, not just through to adulthood, but in coping with the adult world with all of its contradictions and exploitations that surround them. In our world, abuse only is, trafficking only is, disease only is, suicide is sane, addiction only is, and how you survive all of it is anyone's guess. We have no answers for you. Only our work. Only the stories we can and will tell you as we know them. If you choose not to listen, that is fine; it's on you.

In Show Me Your Life, an international program that gives video cameras to kids so they can record something of their lives, they are defiant, musical, in agony, and in love with one another. They are bonded like cement. You cannot know them. Think: battered women's shelter. A lot there and even the location might be to varying degrees confidential. They're thieves, wanted by law enforcement here and there, they're prostitutes with HIV doing survival sex (often, a felony), you don't believe it, that's on you, too. It's not about you. It's about them.

Every Smash Street Boy is important to us. They're damaged. You don't want to know them. You certainly do not love them. You do not tolerate boys like them. You imprison them and call it good. If they don't have HIV going into incarceration, they surely will have when they leave. Our work employs layered digital images of subcultures and how their rhetoric and visual icons overshadow perception.

We employ technology that reshapes, rearranges, and turns inside out the constructs of identity and confront ideas about identity where it is maintained as a corporeal presupposition that never moves or changes. We strive to imply that identity in a subculture can appear to be aberrant to mainstream values, and yet serves as the place where mainstream culture borrows and mimics different versions of itself. We would argue that the real illusion is the construct that only mainstream culture can imbue an individual with an identity and that it is itself a paraphrase where identity in the subculture is nuanced, innovative, and always a prototype.



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