Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center at St. Andrews is a community of activists, artists and people of faith. This is the first in a regular series of blogs highlighting the various building partners who are part of our community.
By Sadie Morgan, Mercy Junction Council Member
Garrell Woods is the founder and director of Young, Gifted & Black, an innovative program taking place at the Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center.
Educated in the arts since high school and through college, and with a personal journey that has been riddled with following the Corporate America path (only to be betrayed by lay-offs and politics), Garrell has worked as a professional actor for years. He started producing his own shows while in high school and has been using those skills to create this program.
He explains, “My gifts are in the performing arts and as I looked around and the people who received the education I did in the arts, I notice a lack of people from similar economic and cultural backgrounds as me. I could see this as a significant part missing from my community and decided I couldn’t wait for someone else to introduce it.”
Young, Gifted, & Black is an arts education outreach program with an emphasis on art of black origin. The mission is to train underserved talented young people between the ages of 14-25 and create opportunities for them in the arts.
“Through creative expression we can turn our pain into something that can end the cycle of poverty, violence, and marginalization. We believe our program can do the same.”
The leadership at Young, Gifted, & Black has developed a curriculum focusing on Vocal Performance, Acting, Dance, and Production of Live Performances. Young, Gifted, & Black performers are broken into two levels based on age, experience, and individual goals.
“We believe that the best way to learn in the arts is by hands-on experience. Performers are given challenges, deadlines, and goals and are expected to brainstorm, map-out and create an exemplary finished project just like industry professionals.”
• Performers are split into small ensembles and create a 90-minute theatre experience under a theme that they then perform in an bi-monthly showcase for the public.
• Twice a year Young, Gifted, & Black will organize a large production much like “Miseducation: A Tribute To Lauryn Hill” and “Take Us Back To The 90’s.”
• Performers get the experience of working under a director with a script and predetermined music selections just as professional actors do. They are instructed on professional terminology for stage productions to prepare them for that future Broadway debut.
• Young, Gifted, & Black Leadership has partnered with local writers and encourage them to write roles that could be played by the demographic it serves in exchange for their production being mounted.
Young, Gifted, & Black has performed in the “We Just Want To Play Good Music” festival with the bands SoulFood, Lumbercat, Sons Of Ander, and they have performed several times with Dexter Bell and Friends.
Young, Gifted & Black meets every Monday and Friday at 6:30pm.
Garrell can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (423)847-2170.