Ok, I am really excited about this post.
About a month and a half ago I was on an assignment at a cancer survivor celebration at a church in Knoxville. Included in the ceremony was a dance routine by a group called Divine Urban Expressions. It was bunch of kids ranging from about 6-18 and the women who lead the group dancing SUPER PASSIONATELY. I was really taken aback by the age range and just how into it everyone was. So I caught up with Felicia Outsey, the founder of the group, and asked her what they were all about.
Felecia said she started the group a few years ago to give kids she knew a creative outlet. She said a lot of them come from stressful home lives and she thought it was important that they have a way to express themselves. They started practicing at her home and in local parks, and other kids in the neighborhoods would see, and wanted to join too. So now there are about 30 kids in the group. Not everybody makes it to every practice, but whoever can Felecia picks up from wherever they are on her own dime. One day I went with her to make the rounds and we made three stops for one dancer. After she picks everybody up she leads the practices with the help of a few other adults, but also the kids take control too and discuss their ideas and help each other out. I should also mention she is doing this while having five kids of her own.
I am so happy to be working on this project. The kids have a ton of fun dancing, but the best part is watching them learn from and teach each other. Older high school boys teach the younger boys who need help and you can just see in their faces how much it means to them. Felecia's son Ray Ray leads some of the dances and gives directions to kids almost twice his age. They work so hard; they practice when it is pitch black outside.
It is not everyday that you meet somebody so selfless. Felecia's phone is constantly ringing off the hook. I asked her if she ever gets time to herself and how she manages doing all of this. She just said it makes her feel good and that when she was young somebody did the same thing for her.
I plan to work on the story for as long as I can, but the goal is to raise money for the group to get a van and hopefully be able to afford a space to practice in the winter. When the story runs I am hoping to figure out some kind of Go Fund Me account so people who want to help the group out can. Until then, keep it in the back of your mind and maybe when the time comes donate because it would be so cool.
Ok, I still have a lot of work to do, but here are some of my favorite pictures so far!