FAMO: Our hair is our roots. It’s where we come from, it’s our background, our ancestors; it’s basically an extension of me.
SALMA: Seeing the bravery in my mom helped me create a new path for myself.
VERONICA: Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more RESILIENT.
HALIMA: My culture has had to withstand displacement and erasure across many borders, so I hold onto it as a precious and delicate flower.
JACKIE: The image I took it represents family to me. This is important to me because it’s a part of me. Family is love and taking care of each other forever.
HAJIA: I point to the sky because that's what I'm reaching for. When everything seems too much, the sky is always there; she is limitless.
ZEKE: Muhammad Ali is the one who inspired me. He wrote, don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.
YARERI: We all have a story hidden behind our eyes-- one that other people can't see, but one that impacts the way we see everything.
The AjA Project is an organization that provides a workspace for primarily young storytellers. These photos, taken mostly in the last two years represent a sample of the scope of work AjA Project participants have created, what the group calls “participatory photography.”
Participants create images that represent self and community and use those images as a platform to examine their behaviors, choices and sense of identity, according to the group. More than 5,000 people from middle school to middle age have contributed to the San Diego-based AjA Project, founded in 2000.
BlueSky, Blue Shield of California’s youth mental health initiative, provided a grant to the AjA Project this year. The AjA Project is among 20 nonprofits that recently received grant funds through BlueSky. Blue Shield is highlighting the work as part of World Photo Day.
BlueSky is not just about promoting access and awareness to address mental health challenges among middle and high school students in California – it’s also about helping young people find their voice, so they can advocate for themselves, stand up and be counted.
“I am truly inspired by the work being done by the AjA Project – tapping into photography as a means to create community,” says Amanda Lasik, Blue Shield of California principal for Corporate Citizenship. “We’ve picked a few photos that we believe exemplify the BlueSky spirit – images that reveal a young person’s character, where they came from, and where they want to go.”