Can You Hear Me Now? Their Showcase Was Cancelled, But Their Creativity Was Not!

At a time in our community when the prevailing story about inner city youth is negative, a group of committed artists are mentoring and training Buffalo teens to develop their unique talents and voices for the public stage. About 40 young people had been gathering for ten weeks at the Gloria J. Parks Community Center on Main Street to share with each other their original rap, rhythms, songs, and dance.  The work was  leading to a third annual Can You Hear Me Now? showcase performance on   March 24  . at the Burchfield Penney Arts Center auditorium.

But because of the Coronavirus health crisis, that never happened. 

Gloria Parks Community Center Associate Director Michael A. Tritto Jr.  said the they   hope to record a video at Burchfield Penney with the  students and distribute it. 

Their creativity, despite the perfomance’s cancellation, is alive, well and relevant.

 Can You Hear Me Now? is an open mic program that meets Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons to empower young performers to transition from performing covers of commercial songs to developing original poetry, rap, and movement.  These young people come from public and charter schools around Buffalo.  Although there are a few small venues that have opened in recent years that occasionally accommodate youth under 21 for open mics, there are very few spaces where teens can connect with their peers, while being challenged by caring adult mentors and artists to deepen and refine their work.

 The program was developed by the owner of Leadline LLC, Solomon Dixon, an award-winning local spoken word artist, hip hop dancer, and teacher, and Da’Von McCune, rap artist and owner of D Real McCoy Entertainment. Together with Ashley Watson, a Marriage and Family Counselor, and owner of # Real Talk, a social emotional curriculum for youth, and Michael Tritto, the Associate Director at Gloria J. Parks Community Center, this adult team creates a safe space for youth to enjoy each other’s company, while challenging themselves to express what really matters to them. 

But this is not a therapeutic retreat.  This is an artistic laboratory and youth café wrapped into one.  The teens overcome the cold weather and long mass transit commutes from school to the community center, because presenting their truth and their talent is heady stuff.  The youth are keyed up with enthusiasm having completed auditions to make the showcase. The performers who make the cut will be paid from the proceeds for the performance, to get a taste of being treated as professionals.  The artistic team challenges these young people to hone their skills in public relations to learn how to produce their own public performance.

    This event is produced by the University District Community Development Association (UDCDA), a non-profit agency offering youth, senior citizen, and adult programs at the Gloria J. Parks Community Center, 3242 Main Street and community and housing development services at 995 Kensington Avenue. This program is funded by generous grants from the Erie County Youth Bureau and the First Niagara Foundation. Burchfield Penney Arts Center was a co-sponsor of the showcase event .

   For more information on the program, contact Michael Tritto at 716-832-5085 or m.tritto@udcda.org