Youth Theatre Festival encourages creativity

Friday, the community’s youth showed why art remains worthy of celebration at the 29th Annual Youth Theatre Festival. The festival revolved around the theme “I can do that,” a reoccurring notion in the festival’s history. Seeing others their age sing, dance or play the guitar encourages children to believe in themselves and think “I can do that, too.”

The first half of the festival featured performances by the young artists. The Kuumba Watoto and Knoxville Children’s Theatre (KCT) gave special performances. KCT demonstrated three types of dance performances: ballet, “Reflection of God” and jazz.

“We make sure to focus on youth performers and young people performing for young people because it makes a difference,” Jonathan Clark, executive support manager of The Carpetbag Theatre, said.

In 1989, the founders of Carpetbag, a local ensemble company devoted to original works, partnered with the Kuumba Festival to create the Youth Theatre Festival. The festival helped the community’s youth gain accessibility to the arts without worry about the cost.

The festival offered workshops for children from age 5 to 18. Some of the workshops included a hip hop dance class, painting and hip hop writing.

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The festival shows children that different opportunities exist in the world beyond  traditional occupations like medicine or law. Carpetbag wants them to understand their artistry and to sustain a viable and professional career within the theatre.

Kisha Rockette, the event coordinator of the Youth Theatre Festival, said, “We have to let our youth understand that they can survive with being an artist. It is important to tap into the youth so that they don’t feel as if there is no hope or that their dreams are lost.”

Both Clark and Rockette believe that arts programs have improved through the years, but Clark has not seen many art activities inside schools.

“The upcoming STEM academy is cool, but the arts get left out a lot, and that is usually the first place to get funding cut or redistributed,” Clark said.

Children can, however, find arts education through Carpetbag initiatives. Carpetbag received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund fall and spring break youth camps. Children in the camp will receive a stipend for joining and participating. Participants will also have a chance to help with the production of Carpetbag’s upcoming play, “Ce Nitram Sacul,” in September.

 

Images by Sage Davis

Edited by Lexie Little

 

 

 

Refugees celebrate progress, hope

While immigration battles continue on Capitol Hill, the Knoxville community came together to celebrate World Refugee Day (internationally celebrated June 20) at Bridge Refugee Services, an organization driven to help refugees settle and succeed in the Knoxville and Chattanooga areas.

For a refugee, motivation for moving to the U.S. does not revolve around a more comfortable lifestyle, but the prospect of asylum. Refugees flee their native countries because of fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality or affiliation with a certain social group. Bridge helps refugees by securing jobs, housing and education opportunities.

Saturday evening, Bridge clients told stories about their journeys to America and described changes in their lives.

Client Eliza Manizabayo, a Congolese refugee, settled in Knoxville in 2016 after living in the Uganda Refugee Camp.

“There are some challenges where you do not know anything or anybody, and you feel like you’re so lonely, but these days we have churches that support refugees,” Manizabayo said.

Manizabayo shared her story and her love for America, where she finds many opportunities previously unavailable to her in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“It’s where every refugee wants to go,” she said of America. “It’s everyone’s dream in the refugee camp.”

Bridge makes every effort to put clients at ease as soon as they step into McGhee Tyson airport.

“They [church members] help repair the apartment and they go to the airport to welcome them,” Manizabayo said. She also said Bridge directed her to many opportunities to help further her education and learn English.

World Refugee Day allows Manizabayo time to feel happy and forgive her past, days darkened by harsh and violent conditions in her native country. Such conditions included sexual assault, murder and torture by armed groups.

“Sometimes when we tell our stories, it makes us remember the past, but also gives us that feeling of, ‘Yes, I suffered, but now I’m okay.’”

Bridge Refugee Services planned events in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Maryville to celebrate World Refugee Day. In Knoxville, WATE’s John Dare served as emcee to facilitate transitions between speakers.

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Zainab Ahmed speaks to the public about her journey as a refugee and life in Knoxville. June 24, 2018. Sage Davis/TNJN

Zainab Ahmed came to Knoxville three years ago. A refugee from Iraq, Ahmed now looks to start her own jewelry business. She currently takes classes in marketing and business to help expand her jewelry brand.

“They [Bridge] encouraged me to do this,” Ahmed said. When Bridge plans events, workers help Ahmed market her jewelry by inviting her to set up a booth.

“They are helping me by connecting me to businessmen and commercial agencies to take classes with them to help me market.”

Drocella Mugorewera, executive director of Bridge, was a client when she first arrived in the U.S in 2009. For Mugorewera, World Refugee Day not only prompts remembrance of the refugees’ struggles worldwide, but also of their achievements.

“We’re celebrating their achievements, resilience and contribution to the community,” she said. “We’re also celebrating the welcoming communities.”

“Refugees cannot thrive without the supporting communities.”

Images by Sage Davis

Edited by Lexie Little

Music, dance celebrate African American culture

African culture filled Historic Market Square for the 29th annual Kuumba Festival on Friday, June 22. The public celebrated the free festival with entertainment on the stage from noon to 10 p.m.

African American Appalachian Arts brought the festival to fruition. The nonprofit grassroots organization helps plan this annual festival and concentrates on bringing positive social, economic and community development through cultural arts programming.

This year’s theme, “Kuumba Forever,” honored the legacy of former Executive Director Nkechi Ajanaku who died last summer.

“I think people need to see this and experience new things,” Chelsey Goons, a UT student, said. “It really shows how much there is out there in the world to see and encourages young people to embrace their true culture.”

The “Love is the Answer” Youth Art Showcase encouraged child development through the arts.

Felecia Outsey, the creator of “Love is the Answer,” said, “[The showcase] started with me wanting to be able to have something in place for kids who could not afford to go to take dance lessons, and I was once one of those kids.”

“The initiative is an open-mic performance community showcase that is hosted every month, but what we do is use that time to teach love to children and people in our community.”

MC Zakiyyah “Sista Zock Solid” Modeste and DJ K Swift hosted the event through both sunny weather and a deluge. The Kuumba Watoto Children’s Dance and Drum Extravaganza proved a popular feature as performers livened up the scene despite the rain.

The festival ended with a live concert from local singer and poet Daje Morris and the Ogya World Music Band.

 

Images of the Kuumba Watoto Children’s Dance and Drum group by Sage Davis

Edited by Lexie Little

 

Indie artists perform at Smart & Becker

Two Nashville-native artists, Augustus Carroll and Austin Feinstein, performed with local artist Daje Morris in an intimate concert at the Smart & Becker Wednesday night.

As Carroll and Feinstein planned to perform in Knoxville, Morris reached out to the touring duo and helped to book their appearance.

Feinstein opened the show with his first song, “Side by Side.”

“It is sort of my anthem to dealing with the darkness that is in my life,” he said of his first song. “Saying that no matter who comes to me with any problems or whatever darkness that is in my life, it is not going to hold me down.”

The southern-folk artist explained that he did not become passionate about performing and writing music until last year. His inspiration for writing seriously resulted from a break-up last year. Feinstein first learned to play guitar at age 11, but he now focuses more on his music and writing.

“I’m still learning the ropes,” Feinstein said.

After Feinstein finished his set with “Oh Heaven,” Morris performed songs and poems. She began with “Come,” a song infused with both singing and spoken-word poetry. Morris finds inspiration through her memories and other poems.

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Daje Morris performs original music and poetry at the Smart & Becker. June 13, 2018. Sage Davis/TNJN

“Poetry and music is a way for me to process noise and that how I can stay grounded,” Morris explained. She said memories sometimes infiltrate her thoughts and distract her from living. “Music and poetry is a way for me to clear that.”

While Morris receives her inspiration through tragic memories and other poets, Carroll gains his inspiration through everyday occurrences.

“It could be just a thought I have throughout the day or just one occurring thing,” he said.

Carroll began his set with “Ghost” along with a cover of Leon Bridge’s song, “River” to which the crowd sang along.

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Augustus Carroll performs solo during his tour with Austin Feinstein in Knoxville, June 13, 2018. Sage Davis/TNJN

Feinstein and Carroll continue their tour in three more cities. They will perform next in Asheville, North Carolina. Morris will perform at the Kuumba Festival next Friday, June 22.

 

Images by Sage Davis

Edited by Lexie Little

Indie artists perform at Smart & Becker

Two Nashville-native artists, Augustus Carroll and Austin Feinstein, performed with local artist Daje Morris in an intimate concert at the Smart & Becker Wednesday night.

As Carroll and Feinstein planned to perform in Knoxville, Morris reached out to the touring duo and helped to book their appearance.

Feinstein opened the show with his first song, “Side by Side.”

“It is sort of my anthem to dealing with the darkness that is in my life,” he said of his first song. “Saying that no matter who comes to me with any problems or whatever darkness that is in my life, it is not going to hold me down.”

The southern-folk artist explained that he did not become passionate about performing and writing music until last year. His inspiration for writing seriously resulted from a break-up last year. Feinstein first learned to play guitar at age 11, but he now focuses more on his music and writing.

“I’m still learning the ropes,” Feinstein said.

After Feinstein finished his set with “Oh Heaven,” Morris performed songs and poems. She began with “Come,” a song infused with both singing and spoken-word poetry. Morris finds inspiration through her memories and other poems.

“Poetry and music is a way for me to process noise and that how I can stay grounded,” Morris explained. She said memories sometimes infiltrate her thoughts and distract her from living. “Music and poetry is a way for me to clear that.”

While Morris receives her inspiration through tragic memories and other poets, Carroll gains his inspiration through everyday occurrences.

“It could be just a thought I have throughout the day or just one occurring thing,” he said.

Carroll began his set with “Ghost” along with a cover of Leon Bridge’s song, “River” to which the crowd sang along.

Feinstein and Carroll continue their tour in three more cities. They will perform next in Asheville, North Carolina. Morris will perform at the Kuumba Festival next Friday, June 22.

 

Image TNJN archives

Edited by Lexie Little

 

Knoxville lantern festival prepares to dim

Dragon Lights, the first ever Chinese lantern festival in Knoxville, comes to a close in Chilhowee Park this weekend. The festival, which began March 16, ends April 22. The final festival day starts at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m.

“It’s a great way for us to learn about another culture. In this case, the Chinese culture,” James Hopkins said. “The lights are beautiful, and we love it.”

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The Dragon Lights festival fills the park with traditional lights such as the Chinese zodiac animals, Chinese opera characters, jellyfish and more. The gigantic red dragon proves the most eye-catching in the middle of the park. The dragon stretches about 70 feet long and 20 feet high.

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Dragon Lights festival features food trucks and showcases performers like plate spinners at 6:30 p.m. and at 8 p.m.

Chinese artisans created each lantern by hand. Lanterns are best viewed after sunset, around 8:13 p.m. for the final day.  Tickets are 16 dollars for adults and 10 dollars for children.

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“I’m glad Knoxville has this even for us,” Hopkins said. “We are looking forward to next year’s Dragon Lights festival.”

Photos by Jeff Park