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Kannapolis Festival of the Arts a celebration of talent, diversity

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó All young people have talent. You just have to give them a chance to show it.
That’s the belief behind the Kannapolis Festival of the Arts, held Friday at the city’s Village Park Amphitheater.
Featuring about 65 performers in 21 acts, the festival highlighted teenage singers, musicians, poets and dancers from A.L. Brown High School.
“It’s a chance for them to come together and have some fun,” director Louise Bush said.
Bush, an English instructor at A.L. Brown, said the annual show is meant to share the students’ wealth of talent with the community, crossing cultural and racial lines and bringing as many people together as possible.
The Festival of the Arts began in part as an exhibition of music and artwork on the A.L. Brown campus.
Bush merged the school’s event with a local teen band concert organized by Marshall Smith of Cooperative Christian Ministries.
Asked about the talent on stage Friday, “I can’t think of words to describe it,” Smith said. “I think we’ve got some of the finest young people in the country.”
And their talent has translated into generosity: This year, the combined event raised more than $10,000 for the charity from local and corporate donors, Smith said.
“Because of these kids here tonight and these sponsors, we will be able to put two more families into homes in addition to the four we’ve already placed this year,” Smith told the audience before Saturday’s show began.
That show featured every act imaginable: rock and heavy metal bands, poets, dancers of all kinds and a cappella singing.
One notable change this year was the fact that no visual art was on display at the festival.
Bush said transporting drawings, paintings and photographs from the A.L. Brown campus had proved to be too difficult.
But the music and spoken words emanating from the stage drew a crowd of several hundred people of all ages, parents and families along with local residents.
Some teens brought their favorite works to the stage.
La Avia Earl, a freshman at A.L. Brown, sang the song “Listen,” made famous by Beyoncé Knowles.
“I wanted to let people know, don’t let anybody hold you back from your dreams,” she said.
Prayer Jackson recited the poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou.
Her mother, Janice, said poetry was important to her daughter. This was Prayer’s second year reading poetry on stage at the Festival of the Arts.
“She really enjoyed doing it,” Janice said. And, she said, the chance to share talent can help keep young people out of bad situations. “It opens their eyes,” she said.
Also at the show were Jackson’s neighbors, Brandon and Shanda Jordan, who came to show their support.
“It’s great for the community,” Brandon said. “It’s keeping the kids out of trouble on a Friday night.”
Many teens were in the audience to cheer on their friends and classmates.
But more than just “something to do,” the concert was a chance for students to share their important and unique experiences.
Several acts had a strong Christian message. Others focused on cultural heritage.
The Lao sisters ó Cua, Hua and Dee ó returned to the stage as in previous years to perform a traditional dance of the Hmong people.
The Hmong are an ethnic group. “The majority live in China and southeast Asia,” Cua said.
In their brightly-colored outfits, the girls danced to a medley of songs with both traditional and upbeat modern sounds.
“We like to express our culture,” Cua said.
“We’re not well-known in this area,” Hua said.
But the applause that followed the girls’ dance showed that they wouldn’t be forgotten.
Bush said she hoped the show would be “a unifying force” in the community.
“What has struck us is what good hearts these kids have, and what talent there is at that school,” she said.

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