Programs empower youths through performing arts, community service

“I’m going to put you to the test.”
Listen for the clues and cues, Sandy Redd told her young charges last week: Intro. Outro. Hook. Verse. Bridge. How do they feature in “Old Town Road” and other songs?
The kids needed to know the musical components if they wanted to write a song to be performed in next week’s finale of Redd’s musical enrichment program.
It’s a new aspect of Doc Mab’s Teen Empowerment Program as Dr. Margo Bell partners with the Mama’s Birds Performing Arts Youth Organization. The new Youth Summer Program focuses on singing, dancing, acting and songwriting in addition to developing the personal and professional skills a performing artist needs to succeed in show business.
Bell spearheads philanthropic work between Chicago and Texas, says Redd, an award-winning vocalist whose resume includes competing on “The Voice” in Season 15.
“Throughout our work and her also being a huge help to my own musical career, I’ve come aboard and added as much value as I can to a lot of different youth programs she’s put together,” Redd added. “This is another extension of that, reaching out to the youth.”
For her part, Redd is carrying on the legacy of her mother, evangelist Margaret Bussie-Owens, who died in 2006. Picking up the Mama Bird torch and carrying the organization forward for the past 14 years, Redd’s initiatives are active in Illinois, Indiana and, now, Texas.
“She taught me, my brothers and sisters, all my friends how to sing,” Redd said. “She would do a lot of things in the performing arts realm. More than that, she was a mother to everybody. It was an extreme mentorship more than anything.
“Unfortunately, cancer took its toll her and she lost her battle. Her life’s work became my passion. She poured her life into raising good and decent human beings. Along the way they get a little singing and dancing and acting. We’ve helped thousands of students.”
With about 20 participants ranging in age from 7 to 18, the Gladewater program’s split between children and teens. In addition to the new performance aspect, Bell’s empowerment outreach for the teenagers has the youths out and about in the community. Participants earn money while performing a variety of practical and community service tasks as diverse as picking up trash, helping homeowners, painting public buildings or even washing an engine at Gladewater Fire Department.
For Redd, the performing arts component fits in smoothly with the empowerment activities that help keep the teens profitably-occupied during the summer.
“I think that some of the biggest things it helps to impart and cultivate is their self-esteem, their self-worth,” she said. “Knowing exactly who they are, it definitely helps with their confidence. I can see how those characteristics translate into other aspects of their lives.
“It puts them in a position where they second-guess themselves a lot less. It allows them the comfortability to try new things and to be confident in what it is they do. Those activities are important in transferring to other areas of their lives.”
The performing arts program’s finale is set for 6 p.m. Friday, June 21, at Red Rock Historical Association. The public’s absolutely invited to come, Redd said, at a nominal $2 per person.
“The only reason we charge for a ticket is the kids actually get to earn cash throughout the program,” she said. “They also lose money for breaking rules, because we want them to be accountable for their actions. All the money they’re able to hold on to the end they get in cash in an envelope at the finale showcase.”


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