Job Title: Project co-ordinator, Keshotu Leadership Academy
Why She’s a Top 40: For ensuring an exciting future for black youths by teaching them strategies for battling racism and stereotypes with art
Junetta Jamerson confidently recounts her many successes as a voice actor, gospel singer, anti-racism advocate and community leader.
She has frequented many stages as a performer – acting in plays, producing musical theatre or singing with her gospel group, the Black Pioneer Heritage Singers, which was recently nominated for Gospel Album of the Year at the national Covenant Awards. There is almost no end to her achievements, but her greatest accomplishment is combining all of the above in her role as project co-ordinator of the Keshotu Leadership Academy.
“Keshotu” is a Swahili word for “our future” and perfectly suits a program that enhances so many young lives. Jamerson, along with other black Edmonton leaders, instructs young people on leadership development through the performing arts at Keshotu, which was formed by the Northern Alberta Alliance on Race Relations.
Participating youth act in plays, develop scripts, choreograph dances and demonstrate amazing vocal talents – all while learning ways to address major issues like racism, peer pressure and pop culture stereotypes. “I am in a constant state of pushing for more, of reaching higher. And I challenge all of those who come within my sphere of influence,” Jamerson says.
The changes she sees in the young people of Keshotu are astounding. Along with improved confidence, performance skills and resiliency, the teens also gain an understanding of their important roles within a community.
Since Keshotu was launched in 2008, many graduates have returned for more guidance and instruction to expand their potential, so the faculty had to write a second level of curriculum for them. “They simply have that great capacity to succeed,” she says.
Jamerson’s goals for the future are no less ambitious than those of her students; next year she plans to pursue her master’s degree in intercultural communications. For the academy, she envisions a continuous program that expands to include more cultural groups. She is especially excited about Keshotu’s future contributions to the community. By empowering young people, she says, “we just took [advocates] like all the instructors involved and multiplied ourselves by so many times.”