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Friday, May 18, 2012

Over 225 guests moved by Inspired Art Gala's performances, speakers, artwork

When Kennijah D. of Arts and Technology Academy was handed a program to sign, he not only scribbled his name, but added a message:

“Keep fighting.”

The DC SCORES poet-athlete didn’t know the guest whom he was writing to; he was simply relaying a message he and five other poe-athletes had been sending all night. An inspirational message.

Performances by six poet-athletes highlighted the third Annual Inspired Art Gala, which was held for the first time at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. More than 225 guests attended the gala, with all the proceeds benefiting DC SCORES’ 800-plus poet-athletes.

On Thursday, all it took to inspire were a half dozen incredible students — aided by a slew of thought-provoking speeches by people touched closely by the program; a silent auction of student poetry-inspired artwork; and an excellent venue.

“I’ve been to a lot of nonprofit events and I’ve never been more moved,” said Quin Woodward Pu, who writes Little Black Blog.

The Gala, which raised over $77,000 for DC SCORES, was sponsored by: American Beverage Association; Amor, LLC; CIT Group; Clark Construction; DC Magazine; D.C. United; DIRECTV; Merrill Lynch; Volkswagen Group of America; and Walmart.

When guests began trickling in at 6:30 p.m., they entered a medium-sized room featuring tables of artwork propped up next to the student poems that inspired the artists. A bar lined the back of the room. In an adjacent, small atrium, tables with more artwork were interspersed with food stations.

It was a relatively small space that perfectly fit all the guests without becoming too crowded for people to easily move around. And a bit after 7:30 p.m., everyone headed through two sets of doors to the auditorium.

It was showtime.

The first presenter was nationally renowned Zachary Oxman, a sculpture artist who talked about the importance of having an outlet for self-expression.

“By providing our youth the opportunity to explore their creativity and self-expression, we are providing the tools for they themselves to become agents of change,” Oxman said.

“This powerful combination will help provide our youth the ability to not only change the way they view the world, but empower them to want to change the world.”
Oxman’s presentation was followed by an introduction to DC SCORES by Board Chair Jay Grauberger and Executive Director Amy Nakmoto, and then a few ‘agents of change’ took the stage, under the bright lights.

Decked out in Army fatigues, Trenton S. of Brookland Education Campus gave a moving tribute to his father, brother and the U.S. troops. Alternating between English and Spanish, Tubman’s Nohemy S. spoke passionately of her Hispanic heritage. And Tadjanique W. of Kelly Miller Middle School, the oldest member of the group, spoke of the pride she takes in being herself — regardless of what others want her to be.
Students with Inspiration Award honoree Ben Olsen
Ayanna V. (Noyes Education Campus) and DeAndre W. (Perry Street Prep) were no strangers to the big stage, coming off performances on NBC in January and at the America SCORES National Poetry SLAM! last month. Their demeanor was cool as Ayanna performed her hit “What Happened to the Dream” poem and DeAndre shared an ode to his mom.

The student performances were capped off by third-grader Kennijah D. (Arts and Technology Academy), who paced back and forth on the stage during his tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sandwiched between the student performances, Grammy nominated songstress and longtime DC SCORES middle school music specialist Carolyn Malachi gave a dramatic and impressive performance dedicated to Go-Go pioneer Chuck Brown, who had passed away the day before.

D.C. United head coach and DC soccer legend Ben Olsen was presented the Inspiration Award for his work in the District promoting youth development and healthy lifestyles. Olsen was introduced by his former teammate and good friend John Harkes, who is a longtime DC SCORES supporter and serves on the America SCORES Board of Directors.

Olsen quickly provoked laughter with his story about judging the DC SCORES Poetry Slam! 10 years ago despite having no idea what a poetry slam was. But that was also his introduction to the program, and it had a profound impact on him.

“I realized quickly that DC SCORES was not your average after-school program — very quickly,” said Olsen, who enjoys painting as a form of expression when he has spare time. “I found an organization in DC that spoke to me through my passions  — through art and the great sport of soccer.

“It was beautiful to find DC SCORES thinking the same way I was.”

The program was capped off by someone who has seen first-hand the impact DC SCORES has on kids and school communities. Ms. Kim, a parent of a poet-athlete — with two more ready to join the program, she said — gave an emotional speech about the effect the program has had not only on her daughter but on kids in the neighborhood they share.

“What DC SCORES has given to the children in my neighborhood is hope, self-respect, validation and oneness — love for themselves,” Ms. Kim said. “You guys are a lifeline to our children. You guys give them hope, purpose, and a chance to dream about better futures for themselves.”

The poet-athletes sitting in the front row had already proven her points with their poems about standing up for their beliefs and being proud of their backgrounds. Ms. Kim validated those words.

But the night was far from over.

The silent auction remained open after the program, and to add a little motivation to bid on the 28 pieces of inspired art, the six students stood by the paintings and photographs their poems were paired with, signing the programs of guests.

Nohemy, stationed on the edge of the rows of tables, couldn’t move as she was swarmed by several guests, one of whom quipped, “Man, it’s hard to get her ear.” Kennijah wrote messages to each guest who handed him a program while DeAndre bounced around, chatting up guests with the same energy and enthusiasm he displays on the soccer field.

When the night was over and all the bids had been made, people began filing out and expressed how much they loved the new venue, the program, and the night as a whole. The evening had flown by, it seemed, and the majority of guests stayed until food was being whisked away and the bar disassembled.

It was a sign that DC SCORES had inspired, once again, and left guests eager to hear, see and learn more.

For a list of the silent auction winners, visit DC SCORES on Flickr.
For videos of the evening, visit DC SCORES on YouTube.

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