Aitina Fareed-Cooke

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When Aitina was 14 months old her and her siblings were taken away from her mother due to neglect and placed into foster care. When Aitina was three years old she lost her mother to a drug overdose. Growing up she was labeled as a failure to thrive due to her tragic beginnings.

After this tragedy, her story could’ve led down a dark path but a glimmer of hope came with one flash of the camera. It takes a village to raise a child and Aitina was no different, it was through the support of her Buffalo community (her adoptive mother, mentors and youth programs) that helped her turn her pain into purpose.

Through YO! Buffalo (Youth Opportunity) a local program Aitina was introduced to various organizations and programs throughout Buffalo, one of which was CEPA Gallery, a full-service contemporary photography and visual arts center. It was at CEPA Gallery where Aitina learned about the magic of photography. Aitina learned to rewrite her story and give other young people from similar backgrounds, the power to do the same.

The skills that Aitina has developed over time has led her to developing Get Fokus’d Productions (GFP). GFP is a creative media arts company dedicated to capturing project-based stories, designing curriculums to teach youth soft skills through the implementation of photography, film, and creative writing programs, and giving back to the next generation of creatives through a movement called Young & Fokus’d. Aitina’s original work has been exhibited at CEPA Gallery, Jamestown Community College, Darwin Martin House, Crzurles-Nelson Gallery at SUNY Buffalo State, Main Street Art Gallery, Blue Plate Studio, and PineAppleCo.

Aitina is now an award-winning photographer, teaching artist, creative director, and lyricist earning recognition through 43North’s Ignite Buffalo People’s Choice Award, CEPA Gallery Exhibition Award, SUNY Buffalo State Young Alumnus Achievement Award, Canisius College Trailblazer Award, the National Society of Leadership & Success Excellence in Teaching Award, Kingdom Choice Up Next and Breakthrough Artist Award, BULYPNY Entrepreneurship Award, Mayors Citizens Participation Academy Award, and more. Aitina has also been featured in Buffalo Healthy Living Magazine, Upstart New York, Challenger News, Buffalo News, Buffalo State Alumni Magazine, National Young Audiences Emerging Leaders, DJ Booth, Rapzilla, Trackstarz and much more.