The Christina Cultural Arts Center meets challenges with laser focus

In a recent monologue performed by 4-year-old Orisha Watson at the Christina Cultural Arts Center (CCAC) Spring 2022 Musical Recital, Orisha emphatically detailed not only her clearly refined theatrical skills, but also a keen and knowledgeable understanding of the lingering impact of COVID -19.

“Don’t breathe next to me, you could make me sick. Your nose is so red it looks like a brick,” Orisha explained.

Exhibiting skills more aligned with a seasoned actress, Orisha’s poise, stage presence and projection were inspiring and encouraging.

Orisha was the youngest scholar in Ms. Salimata Linguer’s acting class this year at CCAC, where students not only learned the bespoke skills of acting, speaking and other dramatic prose, but also received a more critical connection to various social conditions that we all face, especially the pandemic.

Although this example is ‘small’ in detail, it gives a clear view of the impact of the arts (including dance, music, poetry, drama and literacy) not only on our young students, but also on how the arts at Christina Cultural Arts Center continue to connect with phenomena and forces in the universe that can sometimes become overwhelming.

This is at a time when mental health is essential and a balance is struck to deal with the plethora of challenges posed not only by the pandemic, but also by a global war, rising oil prices. gasoline, a faltering economy, rapid gun violence (including the continued oppressive attacks on unarmed black youth), and the overthrow of Roe. c.Wade.

Just as critical as these predictable obstacles are the persistent and ongoing challenges faced by arts organizations in obtaining the adequate level of funding they deserve to carry out various missions to deal with misfortunes.

Christina has continued to navigate the pandemic and other societal challenges with a laser-focused effort to infuse our four pillars of knowledge, passion, inspiration and hope to all who enter our hallowed halls. Our official year ended on June 12 with a phenomenal performance by Orisha and over 150 other talented artists who danced, sang, performed and inspired many.

Daddy Daughter Dance at the Christina Cultural Arts Center's Spring Dance Recital at the Grand Opera House.

Our summer programs will include an intensive dance day on July 27, featuring the very talented choreographer Mariah Jasmine, while on August 20 we will welcome bassist Al ”The Burner” Turner to the Clifford Brown Performance Center.

Fall programming will include our September Soul of the City fair with live music, games, food and retail; a performance by the incomparable Samara Joy on December 2, and yes, ”Carols in Color,” featuring Philadelphia’s Eleone Dance Company will return to the Grand Opera House on December 11 at 4 p.m.

The arts have a creative way of inspiring the imagination, of making an innovative impact on hearts, minds and souls, and of providing refuge for all who seek its companionship.

In a recent challenge to our leadership team at Christina, I invited our team to create the soundtrack of their life back to the earliest memory of the songs that inspired them. And in the face of challenge, chaos, controversy, pandemic or peril, let these songs play.

Hip Hop Ensemble performs at the Christina Cultural Arts Center during their Spring Dance Recital at the Grand Opera House.

Marvin Gaye eloquently asked “What’s going on?”, a question still relevant today.

Journey demands that we “keep believing”. Simon and Garfunkel remind us that there is a “Bridge over troubled waters”. Mary Mary’ reminds us that “we can’t give up now”, and Gregory Porter details that we are “painted on canvas”.

“We are like children, we are painted on canvases taking on nuances as we go along.”

When a 4-year-old can jump in and out of the script in weeks to describe and detail the dangers and perils of a pandemic, quarantined dreams are released into an atmosphere that would otherwise leave her talents dormant and socially distant.

Orisha continues: “Your eyes are all puffy, you’re sneezing a lot, I’m leaving the room, I don’t want what you have!” While most adults are still debating whether to mask or unmask, vaccinate, stimulate or theorize why not, Orisha offers a ray of hope to an otherwise bleak horizon to face the seemingly insurmountable giants who are always present and who to lie in front of.

She, along with hundreds of others at Christina, are engaged in the arts, which not only provide refuge but also the framework to be bold and attack the social challenges that lie ahead.

Be bolder and more intentional. Get creative and create the soundtrack to your lives, and let the lyrics, lyrics, bridge and chorus inspire you to reach greater heights.

Let the arts encourage you and inspire you to encourage others.

James “Ray” Rhodes is executive director of the Christina Cultural Arts Center

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