Yasmin Shiraz: I am a best-selling author who loves writing books that uplift people but also make them more passionate about their own lives. I am a filmmaker who believes my purpose is to share the voices and stories of young people with the world. I am a mentor who believes that my life is inspirational and motivational to many people who look to me for guidance.
I am an activist who utilizes lectures, blogs, twitter and every other medium to send out a message of hope, perseverance, excellence, entrepreneurship and compassion to all who will listen. I am many things, but first I am a child of God.
Brother Jesse: What captured me as I followed your Twitter updates, was your passion for working with youth, particularly young girls. I too love working with youth. I saw you have published six books including Retaliation: A Novel. What inspires you to reach out to young girls?
Yasmin Shiraz: As a woman, I identify with many of the issues that girls have. The journals/diaries from my youth became my first best-selling book, The Blueprint for My Girls: How To Build A Life Full of Courage, Determination & Self Love (Simon & Schuster) I like being a big sister to young women who need someone to connect with, look up to or build with—it’s my passion.
Brother Jesse: Please explain the book Retaliation.
Yasmin Shiraz: Retaliation is a book that was inspired by a 15 year-old girl who attended my workshop and admitted that she hated the girls who jumped her. After hearing her story and the story of many girls in my workshop who were having negative experiences with violence, I felt compelled to write a book that would help young people really bring violence and retaliation to the table. Young people want solutions, but they can't get solutions if adults refuse to talk about it. Retaliation is that book that will get people talking.
Brother Jesse: Speaking of Retaliation, this year you completed the production of your own film titled Can She Be Saved?. I saw the trailer and I had to retweet it! What is this film about and why is it necessary? What has been the national response?
Yasmin Shiraz: Can She Be Saved? is about 8th-grade girls who were labeled violent by their teachers and guidance counselors and why they fight or what has provoked them. The film is necessary because we see more and more teen girls getting into fights and no one discusses why young women have become more aggressive. The response has been great so far. We received a national award of merit from the Indie Fest, and we were an official selection for the Roxbury Film Festival and the San Diego Black Film Festival - and we're just getting started. In addition, Can She Be Saved? had a screening as a part of DC's Hip Hop Shorts Festival. People who have watched the film thank me for writing, directing and producing it. I look forward to more support from the film community.
Brother Jesse: This year it seemed as if youth violence was plastered all over news stations constantly, particularly Derrion Albert. Strategically, what do you see as solutions to curb youth violence nationwide? How can people become more proactive offline?
Yasmin Shiraz: We need local and community-based dialogue with youth about how violence is impacting their lives. Every youth program, school, community center should have some kind of town hall program in which youth are able to voice their concerns regarding violence. Through dialogue, young people will find solutions and the aggression, hate and violence will decrease.
Federally we need more funding for after-school programs to keep young people off the streets and away from negative influences that lead to violent outcomes. Becoming more proactive offline simply means "get involved in your community." This can be volunteering at your church or mosque to work with youth, suggesting a pizza night with teens where you can talk about the topic of violence, having a pizza night at your house where you invite your kids’ friends over and talk about issues that affect them. Doing something positive where you are getting involved with the youth in your community is the best thing that you can do to help stem the tide of violence on a localized level.
Brother Jesse: I follow your website weekly so I know you have a lot in store for 2010. Please let us know what to watch out for from Yasmin in the upcoming years.
Yasmin Shiraz: Look for the commercial release of Can She Be Saved? - This will allow consumers to purchase the film and share it with young people in schools, in community centers, in churches, and in homes. Also, people should begin to check for my web-series, “Every Corner”, in which teens and people who work with teens share their experiences in 1 min - 2 1/2 minute episodes. It’s gripping and short. Great stuff!
Brother Jesse: On a light note, you and I once exchanged views on great albums of the year on Twitter. What has been in heavy rotation in your I-Pod this year?
Yasmin Shiraz: The Seven Spiritual Laws Of Success by Deepak Chopra, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and So Far Gone (extended mixes) by Drake.
Brother Jesse: That's heavy rotation! Thank you for the interview!
(To follow the works of Yasmin Shiraz visit www.yasminshiraz.com)