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Hip-Hop That’s For, and By, The Kidz
Wednesday, May 06, 2009

When people think of Hip-Hop the images they conjure up in their minds aren’t necessarily kid friendly. As a result, young kids and Hip-Hop aren’t two things that a lot of people think of as going hand in hand. Preconceived notions, however, are rarely parallel to reality, which is why although it may come as a surprise to some, Hip-Hop is actually the driving force behind The Greater Bridgeport Adolescent Pregnancy Program’s (GBAPP) City Kidz Got Skillz talent show, which makes its return this Friday and Saturday.

“There are negative stigmas with Hip-Hop,” explains the shows host, Pete Finch of Live! with Pete Finch fame, “but it has the power to bring all different types of people together. Hip-Hop culture is about diversity, acceptance, social progression and community.” Rai Angle, who is a part of Norwalk R&B singer Omar Wilson’s management team and is one of the members of the talent show’s judging panel, seconds these views, saying that “when shown in a positive manner the effects (of Hip-Hop) are tremendous, from the views of the adults down to the children.” The other important aspect of all this is that , as Finch points out, no matter what the older generations may want to believe, “Hip-Hop drives Generation Y,” and those are the kids GBAPP is looking to reach.

City Kidz Got Skillz is the brainchild of Sara Nichols, who is the assistant to the executive director at GBAPP. The idea came to her back in 2006 while working as a part of GBAPP’s Life Choices Project. She describes all the kids involved as “great kids, but there were unfortunate circumstances in their lives.” That wasn’t the only thing she felt they all had in common, though. “These kids are beautiful,” she added, “they are talented. They have so much to offer.” Nichols wanted to put something together for them. Her idea - “let’s give them a venue to express the talent that they have.”

At that point in time the Life Choices Project was nearly a decade old and had done a lot in the area of providing positive life skill development opportunities for the youth involved, from lessons on human sexuality and healthy behaviors to homework assistance and job skill training. What they hadn’t done before, however, was run a talent show, which is why they started small in 2006, hosting City Kidz Got Skillz at a local community center. The reaction was so great from kids and parents alike that the next year it expanded to the Downtown Cabaret Theater in Bridgeport. Now, after a year off due to Nichols’ going on maternity leave, the show has returned and is bigger than ever.

This year’s City Kidz Got Skillz event will be a two day affair with Friday, May 8th being an art exhibit and reception at the Fleet lobby of People’s United Bank in Bridgeport, and Saturday, May 9th being the talent show at the Downtown Cabaret Theater. In addition to Nichols, Finch and Angle, others involved in the show include Pressure Point Productions and Family Man Entertainment’s Rodney Moore, Paul Herman of Double Up Dance Group and Barbara Oleynick of the I Can Do That Children’s Theatre, all three of whom join Angle as judges.

The kids they’ll be judging in the talent show range in age from five to 18 with all of the Bridgeport high schools represented, as well as many of the middle schools. There are kids from West Hartford, Stratford and New Haven involved, as well. All of the talent show contestants have been pre-screened during an audition process to make sure their act and their lyrics are “appropriate for all kids, all ages.” Nichols says she’ll never censor anyone’s content, but she makes sure the event stays “a celebration of positivity.” A celebration that both Finch and Angle see a lot of good coming from.

“Sometimes these kids can feel all alone,” Finch notes, “so an event like this builds a community of caring adults and kids that can help each other.” It’s that sense of community that drew Angle to the event a number of years ago. “Something I always say to children is that the sky is not the limit. This event shows that there are options out there for them and people willing to help out. They are not alone in this world and they don’t have to settle for less.”

Although the hope for this year’s installment of City Kidz Got Skillz is that it will act as a fundraiser for GBAPP, Nichols says she has a few goals that are even bigger. “My overall goal is for kids to have fun,” she explains, “and for people to have faith in our kids again. You hear so many bad things, kids making poor decisions, doing poor things, but having the self-expression, showing how beautiful and amazing each and every kid is no matter what neighborhood, what color, or how old… we’re just really celebrating these kids.”

Story originally ran in the FairfieldWeekly.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:58 AM  
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