Peace Sponsor Spotlight
Jamal Joseph &
IMPACT Repertory Theatre
Peace Sponsor Spotlight Honorees
Jamal Joseph & IMPACT Repertory Theatre
New York, USA
Mattie said “personal peace begins within each of us when our needs are met, but world peace begins when we reach beyond ourselves, and consider and tend to the needs of others.” He also said that we must ”choose to see possibilities — tasks, chores, sharing, even donations of money, time, energy, and other resources — as opportunities to make a difference.” When we support the needs of others — through the choice to give of our time, our talent, our treasure, or a combination of these gifts — we become a sponsor for peace.
Jamal Joseph is an amazing man who role models what it means to be a peace sponsor. He is a professor of professional practice and former chair of Columbia University’s Film Program. He is the Artistic Director of New Heritage Theater and Films in Harlem. He is the co-founder and executive artistic director of IMPACT Repertory Theater – a Harlem-based leadership training and performing arts organization that has mentored more than 1,000 teens, many of whom now have university and graduate degrees. And he has garnered numerous awards and nominations for his role as a director of film and music, including an Academy Award nomination for the original song “Raise it Up” performed by Impact in the movie “August Rush.”
As if these credits are not enough, Jamal is also the author of the 2011 memoir, “Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention,” in which he recounts how he used nine years in State and Federal Prisons as ”the fire that forged his creative sword.” While in prison, he earned two college degrees, wrote five plays and two volumes of poetry, and founded a ground-breaing theater company that brought together prisoners who had previously been divided by race, culture, and personal beliefs.
Today, Jamal not only mentors countless Harlem-area teens and young adults who learn about peace and celebrating life through the performing arts and IMPACT Repertory Theatre, he also works with international teens through the We Are Family Foundation’s Three Dot Dash youth peace initiative – offering workshops on film, helping refine leadership skills, and bringing together the Impact Teen Leaders and the Global Teen Leaders for a night of music, fun, and lasting friendships.
Now, as we celebrate individuals and groups who share peace through poetry and the performing arts, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation honors Jamal Joseph and IMPACT Repertory Theatre as our Peace Sponsor Spotlight Honorees for our April-May post.
Below are responses
to our interview questions
from Jamal and IMPACT.
IMPACT Repertory Theatre is a youth organization that caters to the needs of youth between the ages of 11 and 22 by supporting them in leadership training and the arts. Jamal Joseph is a c0-founder of this organization, and a role model for thousands of youth. We coined the phrase Artivisim which is a combination of an artist and an activist.
IMPACT’s mission is to use performing arts and the dynamics of leadership training to develop and empower youth. IMPACT believes that theater arts and education play a pivotal role in providing opportunities and transitions for the leaders of tomorrow. IMPACT is rooted in creative self-expression and anchored by a commitment to Safe Space, Outstanding Effort and Service to the Community (S.O.S.)
IMPACT promotes the positive development of young people by providing a learning environment that encourages, nurtures, and challenges its students. It offers arts and leadership workshops, performance opportunities, and community service for its participants. The program curriculum encourages its students to focus on life and pre-professional skills, literacy, culture, and political issues.
All of IMPACT’s music, choreography, dramatic writing, and video projects are original — created by IMPACT members and staff. Since its inception, hundreds of young people have taken classes at IMPACT. Many have now graduated from college and graduate programs, including institutions such as Penn State, Clark Atlanta, City University of New York, University of Maryland, Fordham, Rutgers, Brown, and Yale.
IMPACT has appeared in the films “Disappearing Acts”, “Hughes Dreams Harlem” and “August Rush” – the latter of these which earned them an Oscar nomination for best song. Live performances include Good Morning America, Nightline, People Magazine’s Next Great Artists Showcase, The Apollo, Lincoln Center, Major League Soccer’s Tribute to Pele, the International Arts Festival in Bulgaria, and headlining the summer series at the Great Mall in Washington D.C.
The activities of IMPACT are provided at no charge to participating youth, but the program is not free. Participants earn a place in IMPACT by demonstrating commitment to engaging in disciplined study, hard work, and service to family, friends and community.
The organization is funded by grants and a wonderful Board, but times have gotten quite difficult and we are in need of funder who can help push the program forward. All of the staff at Impact are volunteers who give of their time and energy out of the love for the movement, and to make a positive Impact in the lives of others.
Tell us a bit about your peace work.
At IMPACT our “peace” is a “safe space.” We create a safe space wherever we go, which allows not only us to know peace, but also the people around us to feel comfortable in expressing their ideas as well. This safe space helps all peace have the opportunity to use the creative arts as an outlet for life experiences. In this way, we have turned high school drop outs into college graduates, gang members into peace makers, and basement singers into Oscar and Grammy Award Nominees.
“IMPACT” stands for Inspiration, Motivation, Preparation, Activism, Commitment, & Teamwork. Our credo is “we are youth activists who view the creative arts and leadership training as a way to develop ourselves and change the world in a positive way. We believe that we must be the message that we bring through hardwork, focus, discipline, unity and the principles of S.O.S. safe space, outstanding effort and service to our family friends and community.” IMPACT is a pathway to peace.
How did you learn about Mattie and our Foundation?
We first learned about Mattie through the We Are Family Foundation. Jamal and Nile Rodgers (co-founder of WAFF) are great friends. Jamal has been sharing inspirational workshops on the powerful use of film as a tool for peace during the Just Peace Summit since the very first year of the program. The Just Peace Summit is based on Mattie’s final book which shares his “mosaic vision” for a peaceful world.
Once Jamal got involved with the program, he and Nile decided to bring together these local and international youth who were all working towards peace — peace for individuals and families, and peace for communities and the world. So each year, the Impact youth and the Global Teen Leaders participating in the Just Peace Summit get together for a great evening. Impact shares through song and dance, and then the GTLs all join in on the stage, and lasting friendships are formed.
We have learned more and more about Mattie and his Foundation from his mom, Jeni (aka “Mama Peace”) and from all the work she does with the WAFF Global Teen Leaders who participate in the annual Just Peace Summit. She has proven to us that through any adversity you can still be the message that brings peace through Hard Work, Focus, Discipline, Unity and the principles of SOS – Safe Space, Outstanding efforts and Service – to our Family, Friends, and Community. These are things that really matter to Impact, and for supporting youth in becoming peaceful leaders — not just for tomorrow, but for today.
Tell us about the “Three Dot Dash” song IMPACT created.
Several years ago, IMPAC T was invited to share their talents in an even bigger way than just performing. We created the song “Three Dot Dash” and it has become a hit theme for the Just Peace Summit – which is the anchor event for the WAFF Three Dot Dash initiative. Through this collaboration we are able to spread our message of peace in a way everyone can understand and participate in. “Three Dot Dash” is Morse code for the letter V, which is a universal peace sign. Now, 3DD stands for “the new peace” which is not just ending wars, but choosing peace and being a leader for peace. Because of collaboration with WAFF and Mattie’s Foundation, IMPACT has had reason and opportunity to perform this song several times a year and at many venues, which is very exciting. We are a part of the new peace!
Any other thoughts you would like to share?
We are very honored and humbled to be recognized by such a prestigious Foundation as Mattie’s. We will continue to spread our message on peace. And we hope to become a Peace Certified Organization soon! Peace is possible!
Thank you, Jamal & IMPACT,
for being Peace Sponsors.
Click on these links to learn more about Jamal & IMPACT: