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Birmingham’s YouthSpeak Event a Celebration of African Americans in the Arts

Birmingham City Councilor Crystal Smitherman during the Third Annual YouthSpeak event, held Friday at Red Mountain Theatre. (Sym Posey Photo, The Birmingham Times)

By Sym Posey | The Birmingham Times

Birmingham City Councilor Crystal Smitherman said she felt right at home Friday at the Red Mountain Theatre and wanted to make sure students from throughout Jefferson County did as well.

“I can remember when I was in school being able to perform on a stage like this and get access to instructions just like this,” said Smitherman, to students and parents from various schools who gathered for the Third Annual YouthSpeak event at RMT. “The theme for this year is African Americans in the arts. That is the theme for the entire Black History Month.”

The event featured poetry, music, theatre, and dance by students from Ramsay High School, Jefferson County Academy of Theatre & Dance, Huffman High School, Wenonah High School, Jackson-Olin High School, Paul W. Bryant High School, Indian Springs School, and Hemphill Elementary.

Less than 10 percent of artists are African Americans, said the councilor. “This is a matter of giving Black artists as young as five years old up to the age of 18 a voice to represent themselves, being able to say it in the safe space ‘this is what is going on in my life, this is how I feel, this is how I want to represent the art community,’” she said.

She added during her speech at RTM, “… we really want to make sure our kids have access to a state-of-the-art facility … I am so happy that these kids decided to participate. It really means a lot to me.”

Guests were also treated to a special performance by the cast of “The Color Purple”.