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Lynn millennials highlight the people of their city and give them a platform to feel heard

Voices of Lynn co-founders Madeline O'Bryant, Chrisna Khuon, Cinda Danh, and Richard Valentine Jr. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — The voices and faces that reside in Lynn now have their own platform, and it’s all thanks to some young natives.

The Voices of Lynn Festival was started by a group of college-age millennials who were raised in the city. The six individuals wanted their neighbors in the community to have a platform in which they felt heard and celebrated.

Chrisna Khuon, Richard Valentine Jr., Madeline O’Bryant, Jenny Tran, Cinda Danh, and Layheab Ly hope to use this annual festival as a tool for community empowerment. Their mission is to see the city they love reflecting the people who were born and raised in Lynn.

“Our goal is just to highlight the people of Lynn and give them a place for them to feel seen and feel heard because that’s not something that’s very common in this day and age,” said Khuon. “Whether people are happy, or sad, they’re celebrating, just want to dance, or they need a place to come say their piece, that’s what we’re here for.”

Concepts for the event began formulating last winter after the young professionals met numerous times. The three-day festival happened over the weekend, after the finale of the Beyond Walls Festival.

Raffles and coffee at Land of a Thousand Hills, a discussion with keynote speaker Rashidi Ellis, a professional boxer and community champion, performances by three dance and step groups, and a discussion with Diana Vasquez about the struggles of grief made up the first day of the festivities.

Day two included a series with four scheduled speakers with an open mic afterward and a film showcase with work from four Khmer artists. A six-part series created by the Kings Lynne Community, the Faces of Lynn Magazine launch, and a final speaker series with three performers made up the finale of the festival.

Faces of Lynn is a community publication that first came together after Danh hosted a pop-up photo shoot this past April. The Faces of Lynn co-founder always had a love for photography and the city she was raised in, but never knew how to bring the two together.

“At first it was going to be a gallery, like a photo exhibit, and then I realized I wanted it to be something that could last forever that people can just have, and almost create a sort of collection out of it,” said Danh.

Danh has played with the idea since 2013, while she was working for Steve Walsh, the former state representative for the 11th Essex district. Given her hectic schedule of working and going to school full-time, she said she wasn’t able to put her heart and soul into the project. The magazine is pages of portraits of Lynn residents who share their struggles and their stories.

“I went to Raw Arts for about three years and that’s when I developed an eye for photography,” said Danh. “I also loved Lynn, but didn’t know how to put the two together until I started working for Steve and was able to see that I can incorporate what I love while doing it in the city that I love.”

The co-founders released a joint statement where they said they saw an opportunity to help build a platform for the community by bringing in artists, educators, performers, and other role models and getting them to congregate, connect, collaborate, and celebrate with the community. They saw that opportunity as heightened after Beyond Walls’ first mural festival and the succession of Mayor Thomas McGee.

“The fact we have all these beautiful things here, they’re a part of us and a part of what makes us, and that’s something to celebrate,” said Valentine, Jr., one of the co-founders. “That’s something to be excited for.”

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