Special to South Florida Times

Since its inception in 1989, Voices United has been a sounding board for the youth to be heard.  Its founder, Katie Christy, started the organization when she was just 17 years old.  At the time, she was a graduate of Miami’s New World School of the Arts and looking for an outlet for people around her age.
In recent years, Voices United (VU) has grown to over 100 members and toured across the country performing its play Lost & Found.  But, that wasn’t all that Christy had in store for the performing arts group. VU has recorded an album and filmed a movie. Their film, Break the Chain, was screened last week for a small audience of students and parents.

In Break the Chain, a small group of teenagers is asked to put on a show to highlight the issues that mean the most to them.  That show would be seen by the governor of Florida, who will give the show special consideration when making policy decisions.  Despite the simplicity of the plot, the teens find that articulating the issues effecting and affecting them is easier said than done.

“I want to inspire people to take responsibility for things in our world that we’re unhappy with and get into action,” Christy said about the film after the screening.

The issues addressed in Break the Chain range from body image to religion, to the earthquake disaster in Haiti to the effects of decreased government funding in the arts and sports in public schools.

“I want the adults to know what their children are going through,” said Christy, whose own daughter is a member of Voices United.

One of the best things about Break the Chain is its real look at the topics that occupy the minds of teenagers today.  It also reminds parents that just because an issue may seem adult in manner, it still affects everyone, even the children.

Break the Chain took one year to execute, from inception to screen.  But Christy didn’t do it alone. Many of Voices United’s alumni offered their time and effort to help make the film possible, whether as actors or as a part of the crew.  The script alone boasts 30 screenwriters, with the main actors of the film writing their own parts.

“This film was made, literally, on a wing and a prayer,” Christy said about the generous contributions of organizations like Miami World Cinema.  “The touring company, made up of the strongest, most committed, and hard working kids in Voices United, wrote the core of the story and acted as young leaders on behalf of Voices United.”

Now that Break the Chain has been premiered, Christy hopes to tour the film to different film festivals, before securing a distribution deal.  But, Voices United isn’t planning on slowing down now that it has a film in its arsenal.

Up next for VU is their latest stage production, The Story Within Me, which will be performed at the Gusman Theater in downtown Miami. Christy is also spearheading an initiative for the performing team to go into Liberty City, Little Havana, and Miami Beach to collect stories for a project in the works. Christy promises that this production will have “more legs than a stage production.”

As far as their charitable contributions go, Voices United and Christy have their Youth Action Projects Program to affect change and give opportunities to the less fortunate.  VU has begun planting urban gardens throughout Miami-Dade County and are in the process of collecting books to stock libraries in rural Zimbabwe. 
Christy summed up VU by saying, “At its core, Voices United is about promoting unity and tolerance.”

Kimberly Grant can be reached at KAliciaG@aol.com.

To get more information about Voices United or to find out how to donate, please visit www.voicesunited.org.