Richmond youth are really something special. Last weekend was the Richmond Renaissance play at El Cerrito High School. It was stellar, wonderful, fantastic, marvelous, and every other positive word in the dictionary. The story was set in North Richmond at a Black-owned juke joint named AnnaBelle’s highlighting the history of the Blues and community in the 1940s.
This was RYSE’s third production created, written, produced, and performed by youth. From their website: “RYSE was born out of a youth organizing movement initiated in 2000 in response to a string of homicides amongst youth near Richmond High School that galvanized students to take action to address the violence and lack of safety at school and in the community. Students organized vigils and community forums with over 1,500 youth and community members, met and worked with local officials and stakeholders on a comprehensive assessment of youth-identified priorities and solutions, culminating in the RYSE Youth Center (RYSE), which opened its doors on October 18, 2008.”
The play included dancers from The Door who traveled from New York. Their choreographed transitions masterfully framed each scene with an urban translation. The mission of The Door “…is to empower young people to reach their potential by providing comprehensive youth development services in a diverse and caring environment.” Richmond Renaissance connected a new generation and communities from the East to West Coasts through creative expression.
The lead playwright of the play was DeAndre Evans and he delivered. Richmond Renaissance’s story echoes the past while providing a commentary on today’s contemporary culture. Evans: “It’s important that we understand the history of our people and what happened in our city…” The play entertained but brilliantly and bravely explored challenging topics.
The Richmond Renaissance cast included Nyabingha Zianni, Kobi Calhoun, Kelvion Pruitt, Kabreshiona “Breeze”, TJ Sykes, Willetta Flemings, DeAndre Evans, Jahiem Jones, Jeremiah Gaines, Annalece Morgan, Aziza Thomas, Daniella Agosto, Nathaniel Anthony, Wendell Bullen, Selena Ettienne, Sean Spencer, Abraham Padilla, Paolo Joquin, and Niko Martinez. Remember these names of Richmond’s remarkable youth. A renaissance is happening locally and the future has hope.