Shalom–nothing missing, nothing broken–is a guiding principal for the community development model employed by New Song Learning Center. Cultural awareness is both an outgrowth, and an intentional component of this methodology. A one-dimensional view of inner-city urban areas as encumbered by crime and violence, threatens to diminish or erase the cultural and community commodities which undermine such stereotypes. After school Breakin’ teaches the history of breakdance in North America as a means of both artistic expression and conflict resolution, and the fundamental role African Americans played in its creation. Through a demanding practice regimen, sharing and competition, elementary and middle school students develop Breakin’ skills over the course of a 6-year program.
“Felt-needs” is the component of the community development model employed by New Song Learning Center which inspired the installment of voice as an after school program. One strategy utilized to ensure the success of each after school program is response to demand: students asked for vocal training, and an after school program was developed to satisfy that interest. 15 year New Song Veteran, Ms. Paula Huggins is a professional vocalist who performs with the Soulful Symphony at the Myerhoff. Under her guidance, students participate in creative expression, explore the historical and social context of music, and develop aesthetic awareness.
Social justice is a feature quality of New Song Learning Center’s mission to raise indigenous leaders in the Sandtown-Wincester community. The reclamation of Lindy-Hop, a social dance that came out of Harlem in the 1930’s, as an important part of the history and cultural development of New Song’s 100% African America population, is an expression of this philosophy. Current middle school students and former New Song students who are now in high school work with a team of volunteers to train in technique fundamentals. Sponsorship by the Frankie Manning Foundation through the National Endowment of the Arts has enabled the group to travel to the International Lindy Hop Competition for the past 3 years to study, compete and participate in a world community of artists.
Resident theatrical guru, Stacy Willyard introduced kindergarten Theater to New Song in the 2013-2014 school year. As a part of New Song’s mission to develop indigenous leaders from the Sandtown-Winchester Community, our methodology promotes balanced and dynamic childhood development, beginning with our youngest learners. The arts are part and parcel of this initiative. The kindergarten theater course is designed to use creative movement to explore and transform emotions, provide strategies to manage feelings, and to foster kinesthetic empathy. Outcomes are measured by students’ ability to use “I care” language, to describe their feelings with broader vocabulary, and to transform conflict without violence by the end of the course.
Community resident, Angela Yarian took over the Kindergarten Art program in the 2013-2014 school year. Like her predecessor, Nora Howell who now directs Jubliee Arts, a sister organization serving our community, Angela moved to Sandtown to exercise the “Relocation” principal of the Christian Community Development model that New Song Learning Center employs. Individuals, who are willing to share in the struggles and joys of a community by living as neighbors, move in and call Sandtown home, and then use their time and talents to make that home safe and secure. By facilitating creative expression, encouraging aesthetic, cultural, and social awareness, and developing fine motor skills, the kindergarten art program is Angela’s fulfillment of that vision.