When founder Julie Allison started her annual Black History Talent Show four years ago, little did she realize what her idea would mean to young people.

Afri-Ware owner Nzingha Amma Nommo says, “When Julie Allison saw some of the programs at the schools had things missing, she decided to create her own, which I definitely applaud her for-in the spirit of Marcus Garvey, a great ancestor who always taught us to do our own thing.”

The show has evolved into a program where Allison’s daughter, Kevana Belcher who used to be a participant, wanted to play a more active role in the talent program. Her mother is now training her on how to work with young talent and how to host events. When Kevana begins the program, it is obvious her mother has taught her well as she welcomes everyone with a big smile.

“My mom started this talent show, and this is our fourth year. I was very happy when my mom told me I would be organizing the whole thing, and I’m very appreciative of that. I want to also thank Mr. Frank Cannon. He usually starts the programs, so I thank him for his past help,” Kevana said.

The first young person to perform was Ameerah Coleman who read a poem. She was followed by Jasmine Blackmon, Kiara Holmes and Austin Bowyer who also read poems.

Allison explained why she started the talent show. “I pursued Afri-Ware to showcase this event after seeing that the public schools systems around there was no bridge basically for our children to pursue their talents, whether they be theatrics, music or dance. I just wanted to bring everyone from Maywood, Oak Park, River Forest to come together. I thought it would be a good thing to do.

“I got the word out using the Internet and by word of mouth like in the old days. The talent show is open to all types of artistic performers. Young people can use their talents as a way to communicate with people. If you have a young person who is shy but can sing or read poetry, this is a way for them to relate to others. I love seeing the smiles on the faces of our children, and oftentimes the attention they get can help to circumvent negative behavior. Although we have this event each year during Black History Month, hopefully we can build this into a larger event that maybe could happen monthly. I am grateful to sister Nzingha for opening her doors to us and having the wisdom to understand how important it is to recognize our children.”

For more information, contact Afri-Ware: 708-524-8398

-Delores McCain