Youth ROC the Rockaways At Forum and Talent Show
On August 16, residents from Hammels Houses, Edgemere, Carlton Manor, Arverne, the 40s', Far Rockaway and Beach Channel High Schools, Middle School 180, IS 53, PS 106, PS 225, PS 43, came together (nearly 800 Rockaway youth and their families) and packed the Beach Channel High School auditorium. They were there for the 1st Annual ROC for YOUTH! Forum & Festival. The gathering featured a day of intellectual discussion between the community's youth and its leaders, and a day of celebrating the talent of the Rockaway youth.
What made this event so unique is the fact that over 50 Rockaway youngsters, from differing youth based organizations like The Action Center for Education and Community Development, The PRYSE Rockaway Youth Leadership Council, The Carlton Manor Youth Council, The Reverend Mason Center and the Saint John Baptist Church Youth Group, had planned the event months in advance. They joined together under the auspices of the Rockaway Organized Coalition for YOUTH! (ROC for YOUTH!) to make the forum and talent show happen.
The first hour of the program was dedicated to a community panel forum. The kids introduced the forum topics, which were youth peer pressure, and youth health and education. The impact of Hip-Hop music and the impact of 9/11 were also a focal point of discussion. The youth invited a distinguished group of political and community leaders to help address their concerns. On hand to share the day and answer questions was Congressman Gregory Meeks, State Senator Malcolm Smith, Assemblywoman Michele Titus, Tito Luna from the Queens Borough Presidents Office, Ed Williams of the Far Rockaway NAACP, Coach Greg Carter of the Rockaway Sports Association, and Elder Sr. Pastor James Williams of St. John Baptist Church.
After questions had been asked and answered, a talent showcase was held. Ten groups of Rockaway dancers, singers and rappers, all finalists from an initial list of 86 kids, battled it out to be crowned the best at the forum festival. After every note had been played, and dance step made, the crown went to "Totally Exclusive," a dance group made up of Rockaway youth from all corners of the peninsula. The group was choreographed by Tawana Dickerson, and received $400 for their first place prize.
Vanessa Ferguson sang her way into second place and $300 with the smooth songs of Alicia Keys. The 17- year old is new to New York and the Rockaways, and she plans to actively pursue a career in music.
Third place went to the "Rockaway Rockets", a male dance hip-hop group that amazed the crowd with their flexibility and moves. Unfortunately, the group was not present during a photo session with The Wave.
This was just the first of many platforms, events, and youth activities ROC for YOUTH! will be implementing. The next event will be a community play the youth are working on and hope to unveil in the fall.