Once again, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley continues to broaden the musical horizons of Wooonsocket’s youth this season during the Summer Learning Initiative (SLI) summer program.
In annual collaboration with the Levitt Music AMP Series, NeighborWorks Art and C3 Centers proudly welcomed two performing Gospel artists from the series to work with students during the week of August 9—Providence based singer-songwriter, Levitt opening act Kim Trusty and the multi-talented Rev. Sekou.
Kim’s visit to the Art Center contributed something musical and literary to the elementary school student’s summer education. Bringing the story of a budding 1920’s jazz musician, Ben’s Trumpet by Rachel Isadora with her, resonated with each individual child.
“As they listened with their listening ears you see the twinkle in their eyes as I read the story Ben’s Trumpet!” Kim said. “Whenever Ben played his trumpet the kids would play their imaginary trumpet. Each child shinning with their own light and personality. It was truly a blessing!”
Gospel singer, author, musician, and theologian Rev. Sekou’s presence at the C3 Center captured the ears and minds of the middle and high school students in attendance-in more ways than one.
“The organizers thought that Rev. Sekou would be a wonderful musician to come and speak to our middle and high school students, especially since we serve mostly diverse students here in Woonsocket at our center,” NeighborWorks Community Builder in Residence (CBIR) Montana Palmer said. “With the Rev. Sekou’s background, it seemed like the perfect fit during these trying times, especially for dark skinned youth in America.”
Rev. kicked things off by asking each student to say their name and where their grandmom was from. “The one you like,” he prompted. This prompted a conversation about the students’ roots and how our heritage serves as our center of gravity. Touching on multiple subjects, including being a person of color in America and the expectations of today’s BIPOC youth created a space for C3 youth and Rev. Sekou to connect.
“He said that the grandmother of a family is your center of gravity,” Montana explained. “Rev. Sekou spoke about staying grounded with your family and protecting yourself from outside individuals and industries who may not have your best interests at heart. He also spoke on the idea that, no matter how old, your career and passion for something can start at any time.”
“Music is for me a freeing modality as a way that helps us come to know the world in different ways and to see and express ourselves beyond our current social circle,” Rev. Sekou added. “Music is the harbinger of joy.”
The passion Rev. Sekou spoke of has acted as a continuous theme throughout his career, his music a source of joy not lost on Woonsocket’s C3 youth. The concept resonated fully with the engrossed students, eliciting emotions of mutual respect and gratitude from the 36 participating youth.
It was cool that he knew so much about the rappers we listen to.”Musa, age 13
I felt like he was looking out for us. It’s nice to have another adult looking out for us.”Olivia, age 13
Prior to departing the Center Rev offered the students a blessing, drawing from his religious tradition as a Christian, but noting that his words were universal.
“You are the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11” shared Rev. Noting where the grandmom’s of the youth were from, Rev. went on to say “your ancestors working on a plantation in Puerto Rico, or escaping a Civil War in Kenya, they hoped and willed this life for you and you are the evidence of these hopes and dreams unseen.”
This summer’s musical experience was made possible through funding from the New England Foundation for the Arts, whose mission to cultivate and promote the arts in New England was generously shared with NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley.
“We so appreciate that that their passion for education benefited our youth here in Woonsocket,” NWBRV Director of Resource Development and Communication Meg Rego said.
Our multifaceted program will continue throughout the school year for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade. Homework help, tutoring, college prep, and enrichment classes are available. Students may just be lucky enough to run into another famous musician or two as the fall semester beings.
To Register: contact Monique Austin at 401-762-0993, ext. 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org.