Community ceremony celebrates African tradition, cultural expression and success of youth
Elder and Urgent, Inc. Arts and Literacy Director Emily Gunter and Urgent, Inc. elders and youth in the opening circle.
By Stephanie van Vark
MIAMI, FL – The Overtown Performing Arts Center at 1074 N.W. Fifth Ave. came alive this past Saturday thanks to Urgent, Inc.’s annual Community Celebration and Recognition Ceremony. The day celebrated the accomplishments of youth participating in their teen Rites of Passage Media Project and FACE (Film, Arts, Coding, and Entrepreneurship) Employment and Training programs as well as grandparents in the Intergenerational Project. The programs and this event are generously funded by The Children’s Trust and Alliance for Aging.
Literacy Director Emily Gunter to the opening circle. Elder Emily spoke eloquently to the youth about their need to recognize elders as the foundation of community and the commitments young people should make to lead positive community change efforts.
The procession was followed by performances from event partner Delou Africa who entertained guests with a lively performance from young girls and boys under the age of 10. There was an intermittent drum selection followed by an exciting Venus Rising dance ensemble. The audience was invited to join in. “Our partnership with Delou gives our youth the chance to express themselves, celebrate traditional African culture and move to the rhythms of our ancestors,” says Urgent’s program manager Shedia Nelson who also performs with Venus Rising.
The culminating activity was the distribution of certificates and sashes to young ladies, gentlemen and grandparents of Rites of Passage, FACE and the Intergenerational Project respectively. Proud program co-ordinators and mentors called out names and accomplishments of each of the recipients. For example, Rites of Passage Intern and spoken word artist Eveul “Evo” Exil was one of sixteen finalists in The Children’s Trust Young Talent Big Dreams Contest, and FACE intern Isabella Lopez was recently selected a 2017 Fellow of the Nyah Project and will get to travel Namibia, Africa with a group of other students.
The students have much to be proud of, having spent the past year engaging in several after school activities to enhance their learning experience. They are planning for their future, participating in college preparatory field trips and preparing to take entrance test, acquiring professional etiquette skills, and readying to access professional paid summer internships and so much more.
“The area I’ve been most interested in this year is Entrepreneurship. I’ll be a senior next year, and when I get out of school I want to go to college at FAMU or the family Alma Mater, Alcorn State, and after that I want to own three businesses,” says 16-year-old Jeremiah Jones of FACE. He will have a chance to challenge his new knowledge this summer during the FACE summer internship where he will be able to compete in the Business Pitch Competition at the Youth Economic Development Conference (#YEDC2017), July 11 & 12 at Miami Dade College North Campus. The winner of the Business Pitch Competition will win start-up funds to launch their idea.
“The Community Celebration and Recognition Ceremony is time to celebrate the success happening in our communities of Overtown, Little Haiti and Liberty City. Our young people have so much talent, drive and motivation to create great lives for themselves. They are worth the celebration.” says Urgent, Inc. Vice President Saliha Nelson.