Reported in a recent Commercial Appeal article, Forbes magazine essentially labeled Memphis as a “miserable” city in which to work, play, or live. It seems that those were fighting words to Memphis advocates, because Mayor Wharton responded with a gentle yet passionate response about the city he loves. Memphis, like any large city, has problems. Truly, various organizations have begun to tackle the city’s issues head on and have sufficiently faced the music concerning the work it takes to change. Speaking of music…and dance, spoken word, and other aspects of artistic expression, my wife, Robin, and I, a dynamic couple and directors of Out Loud Artistry (OLA), have interpreted the issues that plague Memphis as a life calling to impact the youth.
OLA’s slogan is “More than just talent.” It is a local link of Lifelink Memphis fittingly located in Midtown. OLA has three segments: Cayerio, a hip-rock band with a fresh sound and an edge; OLAYouth, a mentoring and performance training program for ages 7–18; and Hybrid, a dance, drama, and music performing group. These segments of OLA were created to counteract statistics that show most behavior that negatively impacts the youth of Memphis occurs between 3 pm and 6 pm. Therefore, OLA created a program that focuses on that period of time during the day where students need a place to be. OLA is convinced that if youth can be a part of something that edifies instead of destroys, teaches instead of dulls, and EDUtains instead of entertains, change will come. Art, personal development, career, and education are all priorities of OLA, which has inspired Camp SLAM!
Camp SLAM! Will be an exciting opportunity for youth to meet others, express their artistic sides, and grow as individuals. At the close of last year’s camp, which ended with a live performance at Lifelink Memphis, where OLA is housed (1015 S. Cooper), the unity of heart and expressions of delight from each child was remarkable. The theme was “DiverseCity,” and an underlying message of acceptance, appreciation of differences, and confidence resounded via spoken word, hip-hop dance, dramatic skits, and more. Robin Sanders, the artistic director, closed the segment in her typical humorous, yet profound way with tears in her eyes. She cried tears of joy for the significant growth in confidence, skill, and character each child exhibited during and at the end of the camp. Such growth should come to no surprise considering the three distinct areas OLA hopes to affect in the lives of participants:
1. Increased educational growth and performance
2. Increased self-discipline and positive personal behavior
3. Increased acceptance of moral responsibility
These three areas are not only addressed in Camp SLAM! and through year-round mentorship at Lifelink, but OLA is also partnering with schools and community organizations to engage youth in the arts, thereby, targeting the root of youth problems.