“Take observation of inequity and change it. Adopt this cumulative ideology and turn it into your obligation, a selfless gift to the world.”
--Bentrice Jusu, ‘13
The Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship congratulates Bentrice Jusu, Senior, artist, entrepreneur, and recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Building the Dream Award. On January 31, as the opening speaker for the Z. Smith Reynolds Library spring Lecture Series, Jusu graciously took the stage and shared with us her own personal story, a beautiful story filled with such inspiring words.
Bentrice began by painting a picture of her Trenton, New Jersey childhood, reveling in memories and experiences that had so shaped her past. And amongst those memories and experiences, Bentrice spoke of one particularly influential song, a song that rings familiar with most students of our generation—‘The Green Grass Grows All Around.’ You know the one.
Jusu used this song as an extended metaphor throughout—the hole in which the tree grew was a metaphor for her home, a humble home which housed a beautiful family struggling to get by. Bentrice spoke of the tree and branches that grew in the hole and used these to represent her incredible parents, Liberian natives born and raised in a third-world country in a small shack made of zinc. Jusu also spoke of a nest that rested on the branches of the tree, a nest that provided love and nurture to one small egg. Inside that egg, there was a bird. In fact, it was the prettiest bird that you ever did see, and if you haven’t guessed already, Bentrice used this baby bird to represent herself. And on that bird, there was a wing. This wing was also the prettiest wing that you ever did see, and it is this very wing, that gave flight to the beautiful baby bird’s incredible story.
Bentrice selected this song to help illustrate the fact that we are all inter-connected in some way, shape, or form. And it is this cumulative ideology, in addition to the love, support, and entrepreneurial spirit of her beautiful parents that inspired Bentrice to share her story with us.
Jusu is the owner of Both Hands Artlet, a nonprofit organization which serves the inner-city youth endangered by violence in both their homes and on the streets of Trenton, New Jersey. Jusu has experienced the struggles of growing up in Trenton firsthand. She knows what it’s like to grow up in a hometown where basic needs are not so easy to come by. Both Hands offers classes in dance, film, photography, music, fashion, yoga (newly introduced), and visual arts to the Trenton teens. Jusu and her team stress the importance of teaching the history behind the craft, providing teens with different media as tools for success. Jusu also provided her audience with a glimpse into her future plans for Both Hands. She is currently working to expand the original summer program and to build a curriculum for an after-school program that is both sustainable and consistently impactful on the teens.
Jusu’s story is a summation of multitudes—she is a woman of faith, brilliance, strength, and passion; a woman that has fought to overcome struggles and hardship; and a woman who challenges us all to “Take observation of inequity and change it. Adopt this cumulative ideology and turn it into your obligation, a selfless gift to the world.”