As is always the case during the summer months in Detroit, there is an abundance of activities and summertime happenings, from outdoor concerts to food festivals to block parties and sporting events, most have a single element in common— they feature the city’s most valuable asset; home-grown talent. On Sunday, Aug. 10, Starr Commonwealth added one more annual must-do activity to that impressive line-up of things to do in Detroit this summer – the Art of Resilience Youth Festival.
Young people from 40 organizations across the city, performed on three separate stages around Paradise Valley to create what can best be described as a live variety show, with song, dance, visual arts and spoken word performances.
“We really believe in the strengths of young people,” said Dr. Martin Mitchell, Starr of Commonwealth president. “We believe in the strength of young people in our human family and our communities. We believe in the oneness of humankind, and we believe that every child has his or her kernel of greatness. All we have to do is give them the opportunity to bring it out into the open,” continued Mitchell.
So on a picture-perfect day, in this historic downtown setting (formerly Harmonie Park), which has been the source of much of Detroit’s artistic leanings, hundreds of Detroit’s children, parents and child advocates spent an afternoon marveling over the talents of the city’s youngest residents.
“Quite frankly, we [adults] have not done a good job of developing circumstances where these children can grow and thrive, and realize their pull potential,” said Starr Commonwealth board member Larry Givens. “But yet in spite of it all they continue to bang away at life and do tremendous work like you see here, and that is real resilience.”
Aspiring junior entrepreneurs sold colorful handmade creations including, ladybug and floral earrings, fancy hair bows and remarkable message bracelets at the Youth Arts Marketplace, while others offered poignant performances and still others just took advantage of creating art on the spot under the guidance of some of Detroit’s most recognized artists. All proceeds were donated to participating organizations.
“The founder of [Starr Commonwealth] said over 100 years ago, there is no such thing as a bad child. … All of us experience some level of trauma in our lives, but it’s the resilience through God that allows us to pull through that and go on and do great things,” added Mitchell.
Inside the Carr building just prior to the opening of the festivities event organizers and guests were treated to a full-course brunch and a special tribute to jazz legend Marcus Belgrave. The program’s master of ceremonies and award-winning journalist W. Kim Heron brought Belgrave to the stage amid cheers and a standing ovation. Two of Belgrave’s protégé’s, tenor saxophonist Marcus Elliott and pianist Ian Finkelstein performed for Belgrave and the crowd of delighted listeners.
“Starr has successfully used art and creativity in its youth development programs for decades and we know that many other community groups and leaders are having this great impact in communities across the city. We want the positive stories of children and their families to be recognized more than their challenges, reflecting a more realistic image of our city,” explains Jon Hollingsworth, the festival’s director.
“By telling positive stories from Detroit’s young people, we aim to help paint an inspiring and progressive image of the city and its communities, tackling some of the negative stereotypes that are too often associated with the neighborhoods and youth,” concludes Hollingsworth.