'Makes me feel good inside:' At-risk young people unite in song and dance, prepare for free performance

MILWAUKEE -- One step at a time, fourth- and fifth-graders from Bethune Academy who are involved in "Express Yourself" are learning how to do exactly that -- express themselves. On Thursday, May 2 they continued to prepare for a free performance, open to the public that is scheduled for Thursday, May 9 in Milwaukee.

The organization immerses at-risk young people, ages 7-21, in the arts. Visual art, music, dance, drumming, and spoken word are used to discover self-expression, develop inner strength, and deepen connection with others.

Bethune Academy 'Express Yourself'

Wahkboe Htoo

"It really helps me review my emotions," said Wahkboe Htoo, fourth-grader.

Guest artist Cammie Griffin has worked with the organization for 11 years.

"It makes them confident in who they are and what they can do, even if they have some doubt," said Griffin.

Griffin has been helping the students rehearse for their performance. After months of practice, more than 120 students from across the Milwaukee area will unite in song and dance.

Bethune Academy 'Express Yourself'

Bethune Academy 'Express Yourself'

"It makes me feel good inside," said Htoo.

"This year's production is called 'Kintsugi' -- the art of golden mending," said Griffin.

Cammie Griffin

Bethune Academy 'Express Yourself'

Leaders said the theme is meant to reach beyond the stage. "Kintsugi" honors the damage and repairs in an object as part of its history rather than something to disguise.

"Really, what brings us together? What is our golden mending in the community?" said Tuyet Vance, Express Yourself director of operations.

"Two of my favorite things are dancing and singing, so I can actually have enough fun to go home and say, 'I did this and I did that,'" said Monajha Fisher, fifth-grader.

The performance is scheduled for Thursday, May 9 at the Miller High Life Theater at 6:30 p.m. -- and it's free to the public.

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Bethune Academy 'Express Yourself'