Bazaar benefits Carver’s band

Bazaar benefits Carver’s band
December 25
00:00 2014
(pictured above: Juan Eckard (standing) poses with the  Women’s and Girls’ Project’s Kim Johnson, Jamila Stover, Shannon Brooks and Nakida McDaniel and “Santa” (Anthony Ingram).)

Folks got some Christmas shopping done Saturday while helping the esteemed Carver High School Marching Band.

The Women’s and Girls’ Project made the win-win possible. The fees vendors paid to set up in Carver’s gymnasium for the Heavenly Holiday Bazaar went into an incidentals fund for the band, whose infectious rhythms and high-stepping dancers have made it a top draw at sporting events and parades. Band parents and volunteers contributed to the fund as well by hawking fried fish sandwiches at the bazaar.

“We take a lot of road trips. Sometimes, students don’t have money to buy lunch … This money will be for things like that,” said Band Director Juan Eckard.

Four grassroots organizers founded the Women’s and Girls’ Project four years ago, determined to inspire locals of all ages to take active roles in making their communities better. The Project runs empowerment programs in Cleveland Avenue Homes and at the Carl Russell Recreation Center.

“You have to start somewhere,” Project Co-Founder Nakida McDaniel said of the founders’ motivation.
IMG_0319A similar holiday shopping event was held last year at the Enterprise Center to drum up support for the Project and give minority vendors exposure. The Project and Carver are already joined at the hip. The Louise G. Wilson Twirlers, an offshoot of The Project, perform with the band. Jamila Stover, who directs the twirlers and the Carver dancers, says the band can’t thrive on fans’ adulation alone.

“There is not a lot of funding out there for the band itself. They need support,” said Stover, who, along with Project Co-Founder Shannon Brooks, is the granddaughter of the late Louise Wilson, a former executive director of the Experiment in Self-Reliance and celebrated community organizer.

“She was the first person to put a (twirling) baton in my hand,” Stover said of Wilson.
The Wilson Twirlers range in age from 5 to 13. Stover and Eckard say the exposure the girls receive by performing with high-schoolers is transformative.

“They see the discipline and work ethic,” said Eckard, who unabashedly admits that he is already recruiting the girls to one day become Yellowjackets.

Nearly two dozen vendors set up shop, selling baked goods, Avon, scented candles, art, jewelry and assorted other items. Girls from the Project had a table of their own, offering soaps and lotion they made – with McDaniels’ supervision.

Kimmie Houchens makes a sale.

Kimmie Houchens makes a sale.

Kimmie Houchens’ Nubian Soul Wearable Art and Accessories was popular among shoppers. She started her business, in conjunction with her 17-year-old graphic designer son, Qadir, more than four years ago after visits to retail stores failed to yield what she wanted.

“I was going to a concert and could not find accessories, so I decided to make some myself,” she said.

Her ever-expanding line now includes funky, Afrocentric earrings and bracelets and wall art. Her items are so popular that Houchens sells them full time at vendors’ markets, community events and online ( The most popular item these days are her “Phenomenal Woman” earrings, an ode to the late Dr. Maya Angelou, designed by Qadir and hand-crafted by Houchens.
“People love them,” she said.

Learn more about the Women’s and Girls’ Project at To contribute to the band, email Eckard at

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T. Kevin Walker

T. Kevin Walker

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