The King County Library System (KCLS) Teen Voices program is helping Kent youth connect with their cultural identities through art and self-expression.
As part of the program, students attending Kent-Meridian High School drew upon the area’s diverse population and African heritage to produce Afro Culture Night – a music and dance showcase on June 21 at the Kent Senior Center – providing students an outlet for their creativity and expression while connecting with their cultural heritage and community.
Many students have cultural connections to African countries.
“Dance is something I love because it connects me to my culture,” one K-M student, Shalom, said of the program,
Another student, Dorcianne, who serves as the high school’s African Club choreographer, uses her choreography skills to bring students together and express African culture for the greater community. She recently led a team in a dance presentation for the Kent International Festival, an annual event which celebrates the diverse cultures and talents found in her city.
“We are in a new country with another language and culture. It is important than young people keep this to give to their children – to know where we came from and to honor that,” she added.
The Teen Voices program is part of Dream Big: Anything is Possible – a youth empowerment campaign launched earlier this year by the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara’s Why Not You Foundation, KCLS, KCLS Foundation and JPMorgan Chase. The multi-week spring program is offered to teens in Auburn, Enumclaw, Federal Way, Kent, Renton and Tukwila to motivate, empower and prepare them to be tomorrow’s leaders with skills, tools, confidence and mentors for future success.
“Teen Voices is a program platform for youth identity development, agency and self-expression. A positive identity is vital to youth finding success in life and is fed by affirming experiences, personal agency, deep connections to family and cultural roots – a sense of belonging to a community,” said Kent Library Teen Librarian Rebecca Hershey. “Cultural and artistic experiences are strong allies to youth growing the ability to succeed.”
Drawing upon their own African heritage, the students incorporated techniques correlating from several African traditional dances, as well as Afrobeat and hip-hop styles to express and affirm their identities creatively. In doing so, the students are hoping to inspire their Kent neighbors to celebrate the diverse cultures within their community.
The dance showcase was presented by the Kent-Meridian High School African Club and included dancers from the African Club, DTYD, Afro-Unique and a local Kenyan Group.
Learn more at whynotyoufdn.org.