Sharayna Christmas, Moriah Ray and Jasmine Hall work with Baltimore youth at Muse 360. (Courtesy photo)

While youth in Baltimore are working summer-jobs or fending for themselves during the summer break, a group of students from Frederick Douglass High School will get an opportunity to study abroad in Cuba.

The opportunity has been afforded to these youth by the Muse 360 Arts initiative in partnership with The African Diaspora Alliance, an initiative dedicated to enlightening Black youth about the African Diaspora in comparison to America. The group will take more than a dozen youth to Cuba.

Muse 360, an organization that provides Baltimore youth with artistic training and experiences, has worked to educate students from Frederick Douglass for nearly a decade, introducing them to arts and culture from a Black perspective. Morgan State University graduate Sharayna Christmas spearheads the movement, incorporating music and dance into studies of the African Diaspora to challenge students to break out of their comfort zone. Alongside Christmas is Bashi Rose, who helps prepare curriculum for students dealing with African and African-American history and has introduced youth to various activities such as yoga.

“We have eight principles of the program:  pride, individuality, perseverance, intelligence, growth, collectiveness, substance and passion,” Rose said.

University of Maryland graduate Moriah Ray is the brainchild behind the African Diaspora Alliance. Jasmine Hall, a graduate of DePaul University in Chicago, has been friends with Ray since childhood. They studied in Cuba together.

Seeing the plight of people of color across the world along with the problems in the United States forced the duo to create the African Diaspora Alliance, Ray said.

“Let’s create a space where Black lives really do matter,” said Hall “that’s why we are here.”

Despite lack of help from the city of Baltimore, the groups have managed to raise the money necessary to constantly travel abroad with students.

Shakura Shird is a recent graduate of Frederick Douglass and will be attending Full Sail University in the fall.

“It has helped me love myself, and given me a different outlook on my future on what I might do and made me look at Black people in general different,” she said.

During the excursion, students will partake in courses for two weeks at Casa de Africa, attending lecturers on Afro-Cuban descent during their time in Havana, Cuba.