Youthful Kinfolk: Building a Movement with Passion and Positivity

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Sam Gebru and Kristian Contreras started Youthful Kinfolk in 2010. (Photo credit: DAGHE)

In 2010, Sam Gebru and Kristian Contreras began exchanging music via Facebook. The acquaintances had recently graduated from the same school -- Encinal High School in Alameda -- and were impressed by the other's taste in music.

The two soon started a music blog in order to introduce and share the artists, producers and videographers that they liked: “authentic art from our communities and artists in our areas such as SF or Oakland, Greater Bay Area," according to Gebru. After a brief hiatus, the two created a logo, and added even more creators to the mix.

Just like that, Youthful Kinfolk was born.

The members of Bay Area collective Youthful Kinfolk make and support art representative of the lifestyle and ambition often neglected in Latino, African-American and other non-white media narratives. The crew consists of young artists, all under the age of 25, whose creation spans various mediums, from music and graphic design to photography.

Coming on the heels of their Revolve art show at Oakland Terminal, Youthful Kinfolk unveils Open House, a pop-up shop-slash-party, at SoleSpace in Oakland on Feb. 28.

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“There's people out here who might not get the most online love, so we try to push for people that don't have the biggest following. We try to give them a platform to say what they want to say and shed light on people's stories,” adds Contreras, who along with Gebru serves as a creative director for the collective.

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A cross-section of the Youthful Kinfolk crew, in 2011. L to R: Wallah Umoja, Yared Kiflai, SpencerxStevens, Kristian Contreras

Today, Youthful Kinfolk consists of Kristian Contreras, Sam Gebru, SpencerxStevens, Amir Aziz, Yared Kiflai, Wallah Umoja, Shruggs, Yadiel Plascencia and Carina Moreno. As Contreras says, "We wanted to bring together a powerhouse of creatives that were willing to work not only on solo projects, but for the community and invest in the Bay Area's diverse musical and artistic talents."

The group dynamic is simple. Contreras says they are collectively "trying to push for something better, bigger than us." As a result, they trust each another's ability and vision.

And as they grow into headlining more events -- local artist mixers, pop-up shops, parties, and most recently, an art show -- they're also gaining a serious following among youth on both sides of the bridge.

Their last event, Revolve, was the brainchild of Contreras, who also curated the show. This time, Open House comes from Wallah Umoja, a music producer and hip-hop performance artist from Richmond. The all-day event is rich with collaborations: it's a pop-up shop with Happen Clothing and the Chocolate Monkey, and it's a celebration of the anniversary of R.I.M.E. Radio, an online radio show on Youth Radio's AllDayPlay.fm, where YK member Shruggs spins weekly. In the evening, Open House picks up with DJ sets by Umoja, SpencerxStevens, and Shruggs.

At first glance, Youthful Kinfolk may seem like the project of college-aged individuals set to expire when they get their first “real world” jobs. But it’s becoming clear that they aren’t going anywhere, and they're only gaining more momentum as they continue to grow.

"I don't think we're worried necessarily about a 'lasting power' because we continually try to innovate our content and come up with new series, branding and ideas for events," says Contreras. "We have a lot of things unreleased or that are currently in the works, and are trying to create something with longevity but also substance, that people can attach to and believe in. Of course, in the back of your head there's always a worry about whether or not what you're doing will work out, but we genuinely enjoy to create and work with others. So regardless of measuring our success monetarily or by outreach, if people continue enjoying what we do, then we'll continue to feel good about it."