LIMA — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never said progress was easy.
And if Lima wants to get on board, it’s going to require some “tireless exertion” and “passionate concern.”
During a roundtable held during Youth for Change’s kick-off celebration, community leaders echoed King’s words in a call to action to the city’s young people.
“Get involved and find out what you’re created to do,” Lima Chief of Staff Sharetta Smith said. “Continue to have events and forums like this so they can be exposed to what they’re made for and what their purpose is.”
“We need them to be involved. You cannot bring about positive change by standing on the sidelines and complaining about it,” Chief Kevin Martin said. “We need them to be change agents.”
“One of the things we need to look at, we have so much talent and potential in these young people. They don’t have to be harnessed to be something that they’re not,” Pastor Sherri Pace said. “It takes courage to be original.”
Youth for Change
Backstage at the Youth for Change kick-off event, Izzy Williamson, 12, and Akela Jenkins, 13, knew they were supposed to be doing something on stage soon, but they were a little vague on the details. Williamson was nervous, so the two traded some verbal jabs to ease the tension before they were set to perform. Meanwhile, members of a production crew, dressed in black, swarmed throughout Veterans Memorial Civic Center with hands on headsets as they tended to the ins-and-outs of all that entails a video shoot involving a lot of people.
“I knew that this was something Mr. Kellis does, but I didn’t know it was going to be this big,” Williamson said.
Onstage in Crouse Hall, Karrie Lester showcased her own art by singing a duet with a seventh grader from Heir Force Community School. Before long, Jenkins and Williamson, as well as a handful of other student entertainers, would also take the spotlight that day to be recorded and later streamed out into the community.
The goal of all this?
“Art grows a community. I’ve literally seen it grow a community of this size,” Councilor Carla Thompson said.
While Friday and Monday’s livestreams started the program, Youth for Change’s expanded work will be done in the following months as people like Thompson will begin working directly with students through a series of mentorship programs hosted by the group.
The general idea is simple. Emphasizing art creates inspiration, which ultimately creates both economic and personal growth. Thompson, who taught in the Cleveland area as a teacher of spoken word, said she and other mentors will try to take advantage of such of an equation by helping students craft a version of their own futures in Lima.
“I find that kids that get engaged in the arts tend to be more proactive in general,” Thompson said. “And we could really use that here.”
Part of that work is simply exposing young people to new ideas. Not far away from where Thompson sat memorizing her spoken word piece prior to getting on stage, Chef Trevor Remy prepped a small feast. While he had been inclined toward cooking at a young age, Remy said it wasn’t until he was 32 that he realized that people could actually pursue a career in such a trade. It changed his life.
Since then, he’s worked in a few kitchens — many of them high-scale — as he perfected his craft. Eventually, that job led him to catering and feeding big name bands such as 5 Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, Kanye West and Taylor Swift.
Now, his goal is to introduce new healthy foods to children to change family eating habits, which was exemplified by two 11-year-olds munching on a pomegranate a few feet away. Moments before, they had just learned the leathery red orb was a fruit.
“It’s my work to change how families eat, and it starts with the kids,” Remy said.
Other artists that took part in Friday’s event include Sierra Smith, Michael “Moe Moe” Little, Shayna Amato, Stephen Amato and Chris Henderson, who performs in the local band Stedic and the Groove.
“I wish I was 10, 15 years younger. I have kids, and I’m excited for their lives, their futures. I’m definitely on board,” Henderson said.
Back in the green room, the two students chatted about their own futures. Williamson sees himself as being a singer and dancer later in life, and Jenkins has an interest in being a pediatrician.
Their interest in Lima?
“My mom told me if I’m going to stay in Lima, she’s going to make me move,” Jenkins said.
King never said progress was easy.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.