Sidney Keys III: Cool Bros Read

Could you do what Buddha did – born as a prince, then decided to become a hermit? Leaving all your earthly pleasures behind…leaving your “comfort zone.”

[Jakarta, LTTW] The youngest generation of today, famously dubbed Generation Z (also known as iGeneration) was born in the middle of new and ever-changing technological advancement. It’s just normal if massive numbers of them are indulged by the convenience brought by digital technology. They prefer interacting with friends through social media than playing in the park, or watching video memes than reading books – especially the printed ones. It seems to be the latest form of “comfort zone” in this century. But there are still a few of them who feel that their “comfort zone” are not as comfy as they thought.

Meet Sidney Keys III, a St. Louis native and Founder of Books N Bros – a reading club aiming to encourage reading habit and criticism for boys.

From Listen to the World’s perspective, as an 11 years old African-American boy, Sidney Keys seems incomplete with the “privilege” for being a Generation Z – as if he knows his generation’s “privilege” eventually leads to bad habits; such habits distance them from nature, dull their sensitivity, alienate them from “real” social interaction, to habits – in which Noam Chomsky refer to as – “Exhibitionist Culture.”

That is the reason why all of those “privilege” doesn’t stop him doing from what he loves most; reading, reading, and reading. In fact, Keys doesn’t just love to read, he also has a hunger for discussion.  “…I wanted to read a book but I also wanted to discuss it with other people,” says Keys in an interview with St. Louis on Air. This hunger is what triggers Keys and his mother to initiate Books N Bros.

Recited from St. Louis Public Radio; back in 2016, Keys and his mother, Winnie Caldwell went to visit EyeSeeMe, a bookstore in University City, Missouri, which focuses on African-American children’s literature. While there, Caldwell shot a video of Sidney reading in the store and it went viral on Facebook. After the video went viral, she and Keys sat down to think about what he wanted to do next. Books N Bros immediately jumped to mind.

Knowing that boys don’t read as much as girls, Books N Bros is specifically designated for them. “We specifically reach out to boys around ages 8-10 because that is statistically the age they stop reading — we wanted to combat that,” Caldwell said.

Not enough with only to encourage boys to read, together with EyeSeeMe, Books N Bros also helps African American boys to learn more about their identity and roots. In fact, now the club is filled not only with boys, but also adults – from all different races. It’s such a “salad bowl” for the mind, and we’re pretty sure it will be an even wider educational movement.

Books N Bros also serves as a learning platform for Keys himself to be more self-reliant. “He’s more confident,” Caldwell said. “He speaks up for himself more. He’s a different kind of kid than he was before the book club.”

For African-American generations, this is not surprising; from a historical perspective, African-Americans have always found a way to – in Sacred Bridge Foundation terms – “learning how to learn.”



Source: St. Louis Public Radio, CNN, Great School, Books N Bros Official Website


Obituary, Tim Rollins

The Artist, Activist, and “Father” of K.O.S

[Jakarta, LTTW]“…They all hated school but they loved art, so I went through art to make them love knowledge…” That was what Tim Rollins told Artspace when they asked him about his students.

Tim Rollins, the New York artist, activist, and educator – known for his collaborative works with underprivileged and special needs children – died recently. According to Lehman Maupin Gallery, he passed away on December 26, 2017 at the age 62 in New York of natural causes.

Tim Rollins was born in 1955 in Pittsfield, Maine, where he was raised in a working-class family. His experience in a relatively poor household helped him relate to “the struggles of the kids’ families,” he told The New York Times in 1988. Rollins studied art at the University of Maine and earned a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. In 1979, he co-founded the activist art collective Group Material. In 1980s, he was teaching art to special education students in the South Bronx. It was there that he launched Art and Knowledge Workshop, an after-school program for his most dedicated students, who would go on to become the founding members of K.O.S (Kids of Survival), a fluid group of young at-risk students.

One of Tim Rollins and K.O.S’ works, Amerika IX, 1987. MINT MUSEUM OF ART, CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA.

For more than three decades, Tim Rollins created works with them, which became one of the longest surviving collectives in the history of art. Rollins stated that K.O.S’ greatest achievement was challenging “elite notions of fine art that put boundaries on who can appreciate art, who can make art, and who can feel the impact of that art.” According to The New York Times, Rollins stated that his ideas are strongly influenced by the German conceptualist Joseph Beuys, ”who felt that art must be created by all, that it’s a part of everyday life.” He added, ”But I’ve extended his teachings into a real situation in a real community.”

Rollins didn’t just use art as a vehicle of self-expression, but also as an educational method by utilizing literature, music, and visual art.

He encouraged K.O.S to undergo trial and error as a learning process – a lesson he learned when he studied under John Cage, one of the legendary 20th century composers. Hugely inspired by Arte Povera, he encouraged K.O.S to utilize humble materials to create art. Also inspired by the Baptish Church, he used “call and response” method in their art-making process; where the “call” is inspirational text often derived from passages of archival books (such as Orwell’s Animal Farm, Kafka’s Amerika, and R. Ellison’s Invisible Man) or music score pages of classics like Schubert’s Winterreise – and the “response” is what ends up on the canvas or directly onto those printed pages or sheet music.

Tim Rollins and K.O.S, Amerika: ten works, 1988. Source from

Storytelling also became Rollins’ chosen method. Since storytelling must be performed face to face, it automatically becomes a form of guidance. Thus, the moral ethics could be delivered. ”My job is to promote structure and discipline in the kids’ lives,” he said, ”and give them the training to use their talents toward something positive and socially responsible.”

From Listen to the World’s perspective, Rollins’ vast array of methods taught the students about creativity, hardship, interpretation, theorizing the imagination, teamwork, and self-reliance.

”We’ll miss it [Rollins and his leadership], but you got to lead your own life someday,” said George Garces, a (former) member of K.O.S in The New York Times’ 1988 interview; an attestation of how much Rollins contribute to the lives of his students.

What Rollins had done reminds us of a quote from the Sacred Bridge Foundation, “Changes can only happen on the ground.” Underlining the importance of “doing real things.”

Upon Rollins’ death, K.O.S stated that they plan on continuing their mentor’s visionary works.

Salute to Tim Rollins – not forgetting to mention Kool Herc, El Sistema, and other minorities – who see art as the main frontier of ethics to strive towards “positive” future for generation to come.  It’s only right to close this writing with Rollins’ 1981 famous program’s announcement, “Today we’re going to make art, but we’re also going to make history.” Indeed!