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City of Houston selects five storytellers for Houston Inspires/Houston Inspira Public Health campaign

The Houston Inspires/Houston Inspira Storytellers along with their environmental partners.

August 15, 2022 — The City of Houston has selected five storytellers for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-funded Houston Inspires/Houston Inspira public health campaign. The goal of the campaign is to engage environmental organizations, artists and storytellers to raise awareness and take action to improve health and safety in Houston neighborhoods.

The five storytellers will represent Acres Homes, Alief/Westwood, Kashmere Gardens, Near Northside and Second Ward – all complete communities named by Mayor Sylvester Turner.

“The storytellers selected reflect the breadth of Houston’s creative community and include dancers, comic artists, musicians, visual artists and a filmmaker,” said Mayor Turner. “Houston Inspires relies on community input to bridge the gap between equity and opportunity. I look forward to seeing the latest work from these storytellers, which will encourage Houstonians to learn more about environmental pollutants and how they affect our neighborhoods.”

Following a peer review panel, the following artists and environmental partners were selected for Houston Inspires/Houston Inspira:

  • Acres Homes – Storyteller Fair Housing Defenders + Healthy Outdoor Communities/NEO
  • Alief/Westwood – Storytellers Alief Art House + Houston Wilderness
  • Kashmere Gardens – Storyteller Dria Thornton + Environmental Defense Fund
  • Near Northside – Storyteller Walter Hull + Air Alliance Houston
  • Second District – Storytellers Kam Franklin + Citizens’ Environmental Coalition

Each storyteller will host community events in their neighborhood, where residents will be encouraged to participate and help voice issues such as environmental injustices and public health.

For information on each storyteller and a calendar of events, visit houstontx.gov/inspira.

In February 2022, Mayor Turner announced the Houston Inspires/Houston Inspira public health campaign at the Climate Justice Museum and Cultural Center. This project focuses on the risks communities face from increased levels of environmental pollutants, most notably PM2.5 (highly associated with concrete batching plants) and benzene, both of which can increase and exacerbate the health risks associated with COVID-19.

The Mayor’s Offices of Cultural Affairs and Government Relations are leading this work along with the Office of Whole Communities, Resilience and Sustainability and the Houston Department of Health.

About the Houston Inspires/Houston Inspira Storyteller

acres of houses
Storytellers: Fair Housing Defenders

That Defender of fair housing The program aims to end housing discrimination once and for all by educating teenagers about the Fair Housing Act and empowering them to speak out against housing discrimination.

The Fair Housing Defenders program provides presentations and edutainment materials on housing discrimination and fair housing rights for youth, adults, landlords and housing management providers. A distinctive way information is conveyed is in the comic book Fair Housing Defenders.

Alief/Westwood
Storytellers: Alief Art House

Alief art housecreated by artist Matt Manalo as part of the DiverseWorks Project Freeway Fellowship, is a hub for creativity that highlights the cultural richness of Alief’s many communities.

The Alief Art House is a shipping container on the grounds of the Alief Community Garden at Alief SPARK Park and Nature Center, hosting art events curated and organized by Manalo in collaboration with other creatives who live and work in Alief. Manalo’s vision is to create a sustainable environment for creativity, stimulate an arts-centric movement in the neighborhood and positively impact Alief’s image.

Kashmir Gardens
Storyteller: Dria Thornton

Diondria “Dria” Thornton has established herself as a singer, songwriter, entrepreneur and visionary in the music industry. She has contributed songwriting and/or power vocals to a number of gold and platinum records including the 8x RIAA platinum single “1-800” by Logic, Alessia Cara and Khaled, for which she received a Grammy received a nomination for her singing contribution.

An independent artist promoting women’s empowerment and raw conversation through music, she has released over 15 singles and this year marks the release of her first EP, When I Grow Up, which happens to be co-executed by a female producer will be from Houston.

Her music has been used in campaigns for Serena Williams’ “S Brand” and Lincoln Motor Cars alongside a range of bespoke music for film and television including her recent musical feature on Peacock Network’s “Bel-Air” and “The Kardashians”. on Hulu.

As a businesswoman, Dria is a strong advocate for independent female artists and the legal rights of creators through her service on the Recording Academy committee.

Near Northside
Storyteller: Walter Hull

Walter J. Hull II has been a successful thought leader, social artist and youth development strategist in Houston, TX for the past 16 years. Through his work with US Dream Academy, a national mentorship dedicated to improving incarceration-damaged neighborhoods, Walter helped shape the organization’s approach to building community wealth through mentorship. As an artist, his choreography has deep roots in healing and justice through storytelling of the black experience in America, which he describes as his village stewardship.

As Executive Director of Urban Souls Dance Company (USDC), Walter has worked with the founder to grow USDC into Houston’s premier black dance company. As an art educator, he created the URBAN Kids and URBAN Girls initiative, which encourages young artists to become active in their community. Through a partnership with the US Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, Walter has designed artist development that provides a platform for artists to develop as leaders in their communities.

Today, Walter spends time educating his community about climate change and racial justice through filmmaking. His upcoming documentary, Raise Aniya, examines the interfaces between intergenerational learning and collaboration. As a consultant, Walter enjoys working with youth-focused organizations to find their youth voice and lead with their individual and collective voices.

Second District
Storyteller: Kam Franklin

Came Franklin is a Singer-Songwriter, Music Producer, Activist, Author, Speaker, Model, Visual Artist and Actress from Houston, TX. She is best known for her work with Gulf Coast soul band The Suffers, but Kam began performing gospel music at the age of five. Kam, who received the Houston Press Music Award for Best Female Vocalist three times, has performed on five continents and performed with the Suffers, backed by The Houston Symphony, in addition to her solo performances.

Kam is also known for her unique collaborations, including: her 2018 collaboration with Grammy Award-winning Tejano legends La Mafia, who filled in for HR (of Bad Brains) alongside members of Bad Brains, Fishbone, during the 2016 Afropunk Festival Superjam and Living Colour, appeared in the March For Science Band alongside Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Questlove, Judith Hill and Fred Wesley (longtime collaborator of James Brown and Parliament) in 2016 and has performed repeatedly at the Newport Folk Festival where she has attended numerous has credits and collaborations, most notably with Middle Brother, Chaka Khan, Allison Russell and Deer Tick. In 2022, she released the Bayou City Comeback Chorus EP, a social justice album funded by a grant from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, featuring the voices and musicianship of over 20 Houston-area artists.

Both Forbes and Vice have featured Kam for her activism and business endeavors aimed at creating a more equitable and inclusive arts environment for black, queer and femme artists, working in all mediums and from all backgrounds. In fall 2018 she joined the board of directors of Headcount.org. Kam’s unique style and fashion sense have also been covered by Buzzfeed, Refinery 29 and Nylon. As the frontman of The Suffers, Kam has appeared nationally on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Jimmy Kimmel Live, and spoke about The Suffers with Ari Shapiro on NPR’s All Things Considered. Solo has appeared in Samantha Brown’s Places to Love, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and the National Geographic short film Texas: Spirit and Soul.

Back home, Kam remains a very active participant in the Houston music scene, producing events featuring emerging acts from across the Gulf Coast region while leveraging her and The Suffers’ international platform to represent the city of Houston and advocate for a more entrepreneurial spirit Approach to success in the arts for women, minorities and independent artists. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of HeadCount.org as the Governor of the Recording Academy’s Texas Chapter, and she is also the first Texas Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ambassador for the Recording Academy’s Texas Chapter.

Around Houston inspiration Public health storytelling campaign
The City of Houston received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in October 2021 to create and launch the Houston Inspires/Houston Inspira public health campaign. The Mayor’s Offices for Cultural Affairs, Government Relations, Resilience and Sustainability of Complete Communities and the Houston Department of Health and Human Services will engage environmental organizations, artists and storytellers to promote awareness and action to improve health and safety outcomes related to air pollution in 5 Complete Communities Stimulate – Acres Homes, Alief/Westwood, Kashmere Gardens, Near Northside and Second Ward.

About the Mayor’s Department of Culture
The City of Houston’s Office of Cultural Affairs guides the city’s cultural investments with policies and initiatives that expand access to arts and cultural programs in the community, attract visitors, and encourage private investment. Learn more at www.houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @HoustonMOCA.

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