February 21, 2022 by Jillian Atelsek

Student dancers from the 24/7 PRIDE Dance Company perform the finale. Photo by Desiree Tucker.

Frederick News Post

The Weinberg Center for the Arts was filled with dance and music Monday night as students from across Frederick County performed pieces inspired by Black history and culture.

Scores of community members came out for the second annual Seed to Roots event, which was the first to be held fully in-person.

“It helps to build community,” said Desiree Tucker, who organized the program. “There are not a whole lot of events happening like this.”

Tucker put together the first Seed to Roots in February 2021, when young dancers and musicians were facing yet another year of canceled recitals and competitions. The event allowed kids to record a performance on the Weinberg’s grand stage for a virtual audience.

But this year, many of those same kids — and some newcomers — were able to experience a cheering crowd again.

Each performance was tied to Black history or culture, and the program served as a celebration of Black History Month. Several students performed jazz and tap, both styles that were developed by African Americans. Others sang bluesy tunes, recited spoken word poetry or played music by Black composers on piano, violin and electric guitar.

The community members who helped put the event together said it showcased the myriad contributions Black Americans have made to the country’s artistic traditions — which may not be emphasized in kids’ regular curriculum.

“It’s very important. We lack diversity in our education system,” said Tarolyn Thrasher, another event organizer. “A lot of stuff has come from the Black community.”

Lauren Tisdale, 12, performed a short spoken word poem she wrote called “My Hair is Me.” It was inspired by bullying she faced for wearing her hair in its natural, fluffy state, she said.

Tisdale also performed three other acts throughout the program — another spoken word poem recited with a group of other young Black girls called Udada Sisters of Prose, and an electric-guitar performance of songs by two Black artists: “Starships” by Nicki Minaj and “Stay” by Rhianna.

“I was nervous a lot of the time, but I felt really good after I did it,” Lauren said after the show. “I felt like I accomplished it.”

The members of Udada — a Swahili word that means sisterhood — recited “The Hill We Climb,” written by Amanda Gorman for President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us / but what stands before us,” wrote Gorman, a Black woman and the first-ever U.S. Youth Poet Laureate.

“I love the poem,” said Zan​​ée White, 12, a member of Udada. “It had a lot of meaning.”

For a jubilant finale, more than 40 students from 24/7 Dance Studio performed a tap number from “The Wiz,” a 1978 musical reimagining of “The Wizard of Oz” that featured an all-Black cast.

The studio — which also sent several students to perform solos and duets throughout the evening — was an important partner in this year’s event, organizers said.

“We had other studios tell us, ‘We just don’t have anything that fits in your theme,’” Tucker said.

Up until a few weeks ago, organizers were convinced their event would be canceled due to the omicron surge of the coronavirus. It felt good to see the children perform in person, they said.

“You don’t have to be professionally trained. You don’t have to be someone who is working with a vocal coach,” Tucker said. “This is your shot to stand on this stage.”

A share of the ticket proceeds will go toward arts scholarships.

Tucker hopes the event will continue to grow. Organizers — all of whom are volunteers — are reliant on the Weinberg and the city to help facilitate it. 

“Community support is important,” Tucker said.

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