It’s often said that today’s youth don’t have enough outlets to express themselves or to find the happiness that they’re looking for. I guess that all depends on where you’re looking.
This past Saturday, I was given the opportunity to witness the work of people who are pushing back against that belief, as Tim Kennedy and Christian Yellowdy allowed me to be a judge in their annual Shoot for your Dreams youth talent show at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center
For many of us, the spark of interest in singing starts early, as it did for contestant Kyra Covington.
Kyra started singing when she was four years old and learning the alphabet. When the now 11-year-old hit the stage on Saturday at HMAC’s Circle Room, her smile lit up the space. And you could feel excitement and determination within her as she sang her little heart out.
Her song, about a leopard learning how to survive in the wilderness, told her own story, one of a child seeking approval from loved ones, hoping for approval, only to feel ignored. She told the story with a confidence that outpaced her age.
Contestant Caylani Jones, of Steelton, brought a unique vibe to the stage, choosing a song that matched her soul. The moment Jones began to sing, I was reminded once again that children are seasoned and go against the grain. Not only did Jones sing soulful songs but she also incorporated a [Baltimore] Club step into her routine.
Then there was Dezmani Burney, who reminded us how special The Jackson 5 were with the song “I Want You Back.”
Burney told me later that Saturday’s talent show was a ton of fun and a new experience that helped her feel comfortable on stage. You could tell too, with each song her vocal range improved more and more. Harrisburg’s own, Grammy nominee Dennis “Aganee” Jenkins, also encouraged her to never stop singing because she hasn’t come close to fully challenging her vocal range.
“Tha Maniacz,” of Harrisburg’s Just 4 the Kids Entertainment, were also in attendance and their performance resonated with Harrisburg hairstylist, Delores “Snakey” Emerson, who was taken away by them. Emerson said, “the kids blessed her with their ability to show their talents and gifts from God”.
I had a particular connection to one of the day’s final contestants: Tylin Allen, the son of head coordinator Tim Taylor, is a former student of mine. Tylin or “Lil Tim,” his stage name, poured his heart into song by the late Whitney Houston, the Delfonics, and Bruno Mars.
Even Steelton Borough Councilwoman Keontay Hodge, and rapper Quentel “Worldwide LAU” Gann, who also judged this talent show were taken aback by the performance. Gann, by the way, made guest appearances throughout the show, performing a few songs that lifted up the children who were in attendance..
Tim Taylor shared his reasoning for this event. Taylor remembered when his son was searching for an outlet to be heard, just like another contestant did trying to find a sense of acceptance by a special family member who seemed to forget about her.
Taylor wanted to give children from his hometown the chance to be seen and heard, using their talents as a bridge to gain confidence, practice their craft, indulge in new experiences, make friends, and have fun. it’s safe he achieved everything he set out to do.
Capital-Star Opinion contributor Anwar Curtis, of Harrisburg, tells the stories of the residents of Pennsylvania’s Capital City. His work appears biweekly. And readers may email him at [email protected]