July 01--The Whitehaven Community Center became a hot spot for creative talent Sunday afternoon during the first Arts for a Better Life Festival.
The event was sponsored by ArtsMemphis and the Blues City Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization formed 34 years ago by Levi and Deborah Frazier, that promotes the arts in Memphis.
They wanted to bring an arts festival to Whitehaven because they believe there's a lack of exposure to the arts, especially for children.
"We tell youth don't be violent, and they ask 'What am I to do?,'" Deborah Frazier said. "Arts is the way to answer these issues."
Throughout the afternoon, youth bounced from booth to booth and harnessed their creativity by decorating scrapbook pages, stringing colorful necklaces and bracelets and writing poems.
Ayana Frazier, director of the festival that drew about 50, said organizers chose to include hands-on activities to show children different ways they can use art as an outlet.
"We don't look at kids as having stress," said Ayana Frazier, daughter of Levi and Deborah. "A lot of kids don't even realize how creative they are."
Hester Moore, an actress who does performances as historical abolitionist Harriet Tubman, came to teach young people about story telling and how they can use the dramatic medium to express themselves.
Moore created "16 in '68," a dramatic reading based on her experience as a 16-year-old marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and she wants to encourage young people to do the same with their experiences.
"I have taken a real life situation that was very traumatic for me and turned it into a component children can learn from," Moore said. "Every day we are living and telling stories. It's all about passing it on."
While children clamored to have their faces painted or watch balloon animals come to life, performances by local actors and actresses, singers and dancers entertained the crowd.
The first performance of the day was "Ritual Murder," a short play that explores how senseless violence can be.
Later in the afternoon, Charisse Norment, Precious Morris and Jai Johnson, dressed in vintage green waitress uniforms, gave a preview of the Evergreen Theatre's upcoming play "The 24/7 Cafe," and Devante Scott performed an interpretive dance before a rapt crowd.
Everyone who participated in the festival received a certificate of merit.
"We want to encourage them to keep doing it," Levi Frazier said. "It seems like the artistic component has fallen by the wayside."
To learn more about the Blues City Cultural Center or to donate, visit bcccmemphis.org.
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