They got to quiz a master storyteller.
A group of about 30 students at Rufus King High School in Milwaukee listened to and questioned Oscar-winning screenwriter and filmmaker John Ridley on Thursday. Ridley is best known for the movie “12 Years a Slave“ and the creator of the ABC drama “American Crime.“
The students he met with are interested in expressing themselves through writing and are a part of a program called Our Writing Blocks. OWB provides literary students the resources and connections to support their love for the arts within Milwaukee. The program is working with Ridley's baby, No Studios, a creative arts hub at 1037 W. McKinley Ave.
For Ridley, it's a homecoming, back to a familiar neighborhood he once lived in as a kid, many years ago. He says trying to get young people to read and write is everything.
He says being around the high school students brings him a special kind of inspiration.
“Seeing what they are doing, it's just revitalizing and it's really beautiful.“
Ridley says sharing begins with understanding.
“Understanding what you're reading, understanding other people's stories, understanding why those stories move you,“ said Ridley.
A Lasting Impact
17-year-old Amira Adams is a senior at Rufus King. She tells WTMJ's Melissa Barclay that seeing Ridley and knowing that he came from Milwaukee, inspires her to dream big for the future.
“Anything is possible, as long as you put your mind to it, continue to work on your craft and just continue to elevate. Ridley showing his obstacles and how he had to overcome certain things in his life and his perseverance was very inspirational,” Adams said.
Adams says No Studios provides an atmosphere where other writers and artists can collaborate and hone in on their craft.
“I love to write poetry especially about different social issues and identity.”
As for what she'll be doing after her senior year at Rufus King, Adams says she wants to major in theater or perhaps take a gap year to explore other opportunities.
Advice for Future Writers
Ridley didn't leave without bestowing words of wisdom to aspiring writers in the audience. His advice, backed up by years of experience, were heard by young ears.
“Talk less and listen more. One of the things that was really important for me as a writer and one of the exercises in one of the only writing classes I ever had, was really about listening to people. Part of it was learning about dialogue but really what are other people's stories, what are the elements of their voice and how do you translate that,” explained Ridley.
A valuable lesson – not just for young writers, but for everyone.