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Arts appreciated, talents performed

Students showcase abilities on stage

hibarra.advocate@gmail.com

Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 18:03

martial arts

George Morin / The Advocate

Concentrated aggression — Students of the Soulistic martial arts team perform for the audience at the Contra Costa Martial Arts, Music and Dance-fest on March 11.

SAN PABLO ­— In any community, being able to showcase talented youth singing, dancing and competing with their hobbies is a positive way to appreciate the arts.

The Contra Costa Martial Arts, Music and Dance-Fest took place at Walter T. Helms Middle School in San Pablo on Friday.

Contra Costa College sociology major James Solis said, "The theme (of the event) was taking the art of the street into the studio and onto the stage and to promote discipline, good values, character and education of the arts."

The event headliner was the martial arts showcase, in which multiple groups of students from a variety of disciplines staged jumps and kicks in the school's auditorium.

Special moves and unison drills, along with individual presentations of martial arts maneuvers and tricks from a total of about 50 students entertained the audience.

This event was produced and directed by Solis and the Helms Project Focus After-School Program and hosted by Affiliated Martial Arts Promoters Association (AMAPA).

"Through what we do, we help to promote responsibility, leadership and really teach kids that if they have some dream and some passion to go out and do it, and go all out," Solis said. "If you can dream it, you can do it. That's what this event was all about."

Project Focus is an after-school program at Helms Middle School and Lake Elementary School. The program brings young people together to produce events and promotes discipline, good values and character through education and the arts.

AMAPA is a non-profit organization that hosts events throughout the year and uses the proceeds of these events to fund children's programs like the Contra Costa Martial Arts, Music, and Dance-Fest.  

The Contra Costa Martial Arts, Music, and Dance-Fest is a talent production and awards ceremony. The main goal of hosting the event was to allow students to organize and operate a community event while teaching responsibility and developing youth leadership.

The event attracted more than 300 people, including participants in various disciplines. The performers came from all over the Bay Area and from different schools, including Helms Middle School and Richmond High School.

Youth performers also came from martial arts and gymnastics academies to participate in the event.

The event presented a diverse range of performances, including martial arts demonstrations, dancing, singing and music. At one point, Solis' 77-year-old grandmother came on stage and demonstrated how she could perform 20 sit-ups.

Another highlight of the night was the talent competition. Laticia Spears and Kalin Freeman, both from Richmond High School, performed in this segment.

Spears sang a song and played guitar and Freeman played the saxophone with back-up guitar and drums.

The audience really got into these performances, and Freeman dedicated his performance to the tsunami victims in Japan. The two youths were competing for the chance to win a $500 scholarship. In the end, due to a generous donation, they each won $500 for their performances.

"Project Focus raised $500 for our winner, and then AMAPA was kind enough to donate another $500 for the other winner," Solis said. This gesture was a perfect example of the purpose of this event. "There are no losers. Everyone was a winner," Solis said.

This event also succeeded in bringing the community together, from the mayor of San Pablo, Paul Morris, to San Pablo Police Chief Walt Schuld, as well as residents from Richmond, San Pablo and other cities in the Bay Area. The crowd was as diverse as the participants.

"Any community that is bringing people together in this type of event for the purpose of kids, making them feel great about themselves, whatever level they're at, is great," said Kim Emory, mother of MacKensi Emory, a participant at the event.

The event was also able to highlight the talent of the youth in the community.

Richard Ines, a performer and senior of Middle College High School, said, "I really think it is a great idea, for example, to show people that there is talent, especially in this community. When you have local people perform in a local event, it opens people's eyes."

This was exactly what Solis and the youth who organized the event were attempting to accomplish. Solis said he is already thinking about the next event and how these events can continue to have a positive impact on the community.

"We are going to expand into more schools and show the Richmond and San Pablo communities that these youths are somebody and they will go somewhere," he said.

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