Youth Celebrity Project 2015 thrives at National Black Theatre Festival

Youth Celebrity Project 2015 thrives at National Black Theatre Festival
August 13
00:00 2015

In above photo: Kemet Academy Summer Youth step team performs as part of Youth Celebrity Project for the National Black Theatre Festival. (Submitted photo)

By Felecia Piggott-Long, Ph. D.

For The Chronicle

Nana Malaya Rucker invited the youth to join her at the front of the stage to do the Fanga dance from Nigeria at the Gardenia Terrace of the Embassy Suites hotel on North Cherry Street.

“Let’s lift our hands to the sky. Now bring them down to the earth. Extend them to the right and to the left. Let’s welcome everybody!”

Rucker is an actress, dancer, songstress, storyteller, poet, writer, director/choreographer, and she is known as the “Dancing Diplomat.”

She is also known as the mother of Lamman Rucker, the sheriff on Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married?”

She and Dennis Reed served as the morning hosts of the Youth Celebrity Project this year. Reed is a poet, CEO, an artist, songwriter for Inspire the Fire, and philanthropist.

The Youth Celebrity Project of the National Black Theatre Festival has been a component since 1993.

Co-founded by Cleopatra Solomon and Cynthia Mack, both formerly of the Winston-Salem Urban League, the Youth Celebrity Project continues to grow.

More than 6,000 youth of all ages from across the country interact with celebrities, theatre professionals and their peers in the arts.

From Aug. 4 through 7, the youth met to network and share talent with one another.

Solomon continues to promote young people’s talent.

“Over the years, I have seen it [the Youth Celebrity Project] transform into an event with its own followers and its own energy,” said Solomon. “Prior to the festival, I received numerous calls from individuals who live in other cities and states inquiring about the Youth Celebrity Project. Many families are now bringing their children and grandchildren to be a part of this wonderful event.”

New components have been added since its inception, such as Teen Talk and Man Talk.

The Youth Celebrity Parade took place on Tuesday morning (Aug. 4), and the Carver High School Band usually participates.

Colby Christina served as the Teen Chair and the Grand Marshal for the Parade.

There were 25 entries in the parade, including city officials, celebrities, the Winston-Salem Police Chief, city councilmen, and more.

Thursday’s Session (Aug. 6) featured the popular group from “America’s Got Talent,” Inspire the Fire.

Local talent included Khalil Caesar of the Teen Theatre of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company.

He led the youth in the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Negro National Anthem.

The program also started with the Black Reps Cheers and the step team of the Kemet Academy Summer Youth Program from Emmanuel Baptist Church.

The Mt. Zion Child Development Center and Praise Dancers, under the direction of Kristy Franklin, performed the song “I Can’t Breathe Without You.”

Nelson and Tamela Roberts, Monarch Music Academy, Play Play Productions, Bristol Whitt, a spoken-word artist and many more presented their talents.

Guest Appearances from celebrities such as Busta Brown and other playwrights, performers and choreographers made this part of the Festival very special.

Youth had the opportunity to observe and ask questions of professionals who may be doing what the youth plan to do in the future.

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