Last year, with your help, I raised just over $10,000 to send the New York City actors from ZARA AINA down to Wilcox County, Alabama to create two pieces of original musical theater with the BAMA Kids.
As those of you who've been along for the ride know, this wasn't my first time making a workshop like this happen. My original trip to Alabama with the ZARA AINA crew was in 2013.
The actors and I went down to Alabama twice in 2017: once in May and once in November.
During our May trip, we led about 30 BAMA Kids (of all ages) in a theater and storytelling workshop. In only one week's time, we helped the children write, rehearse and perform a show filled with characters, music and dance. The week ended with a public performance for the entire town on the middle school stage. A crowd of supporters -- old and new -- showed up to cheer us all on!
It was a watershed moment for the community. But more about that in the quotation block down below.
A SMALL, SECRET DREAM SEES THE LIGHT OF DAY
It's always been a secret dream of mine to create a bench of BAMA Kids student leaders, to build the momentum for our artistic work from within the ranks of the kids themselves.
Finally, in 2017, I spoke that dream aloud and was able to make a start.
In November, three ZARA AINA actors and I traveled back to BAMA Kids to teach a small group of student leaders -- hand-selected by BAMA Kids founders and directors, the amazing and heroic Ms. Sheryl Threadgill-Matthews and Ms. Jacqueline Hives -- how to create their own piece of theater from scratch.
We taught these new leaders concepts of storytelling and stagecraft. They learned how to advance a creative idea on their own and how to lead rehearsals. Over the course of the weekend with them, we gave them all the insights, coaching and knowledge they could handle.
The biggest thing we gave them was responsibility.
We tasked them to create the next original BAMA Kids show. We promised to come back down in March 2018 and help them refine and rehearse their show, incorporating the rest of the BAMA Kids into their vision. They rose to our challenge and said they would do it.
That was 2017.
This is 2018. New year. New inspirations. Time to make good on our promise.
A BIGGER DREAM
The BAMA kids want more.
Again and again, they ask for more instruction, more time with the actors, more ways to express themselves. They've specifically asked for more actors to coach them, for a choreographer to help them structure their dances, for a costume designer to help them realize the look of their characters and, more broadly, their show.
They've also asked if we can take the show on the road. They dream of performing in other towns in the Black Belt of Alabama -- Monroeville and Selma. They have their eyes on the big cities of Montgomery and Birmingham. They even dream of performing their show in that other big city, the one we come from, New York City.
"Inspiration," said the painter Agnes Martin, "is the beginning, the middle and the end."
Here's what the beginning, middle and end look like for 2018 and the BAMA Kids / ZARA AINA partnership:
Two fully funded trips to Alabama in 2018 (one in March and one in November) for the actors of ZARA AINA to continue working with BAMA Kids and our corp of student leaders.
At least two public performances in Wilcox County for the kids to strut their stuff and for us to continue building community engagement and support.
At least one other performance in another community -- in Alabama? in New York City? We are dreaming big!
To do this, I will need to raise $15,000 by March 1, 2018.
Will you help?
Please donate on the web here.
Our work is all about the kids. It's true. But it's also all about their town, their parents, their teachers, their neighbors.
What we've seen every time the children stage a public performance of their show is that the broader community wakes up, shows up, and reaches out to help us.
Here is what the local paper, The Progressive Era, said about the effect the BAMA Kids performance in May 2017 had on the community:
With the BAMA Kids directors Ms. Threadgill and Ms. Hives, we are changing kids lives in Wilcox County, Alabama through art and song, imagination and play, responsibility and teamwork.
The infinite potential of these children is there. The inspiration is there.
If you'd rather write a check -- you can do so by making it out to “Zara Aina, Inc” (Please put “BAMA Kids” in the memo line). Mail your check to:
Zara Aina, Inc.
P.O. Box 1199
New York, NY 10009
All donations are tax deductible. You will receive a receipt from Zara Aina acknowledging your donation.
Thank you for your love and your support.