By Jason A. Smith
Teenagers in Henry County will be given their chance to shine this weekend, at a first-time event in McDonough geared toward providing youths in the community with a positive outlet.
The Spotlight Club, at 1500 McDonough Place, will host a Talent Showcase Saturday, for children ages 13-18. Approximately 14 acts, including singers, dancers and rappers, will perform during the event, which is the brainchild of the club's owner, Andrea Morrison. She says the effort is about more than just music and socializing, adding that it is being presented to the young participants with their futures in mind.
"We're allowing the kids to display their talents, and we want to help build their confidence and self-esteem," says Morrison. "This is a way for them to focus their attention ... toward something they enjoy doing, whether they do it as a hobby or want to pursue it as a career."
She says providing a forum to gather and perform, also helps to minimize the dangers facing many teens in the area. "When kids don't have anything to do and are bored, it's easier for them to get pulled into gangs or drugs," says Morrison. "This is a way for them to focus their attention away from negative things, on something they love to do."
Donald Gray, youth director at Warriors of Worship Church in McDonough, helped Morrison organize the showcase and will serve as host for the event. He describes the occasion as a "very positive" one for the young participants.
"We don't have a lot of extracurricular activities for teens in the area," says Gray. "This is a way to give them an opportunity to succeed."
To that end, Gray has invited a number of professional producers and singers to watch the performances, and perhaps help the youngsters make connections in the music industry.
One of the people scheduled to take part in the showcase, is 16-year-old Daniel Perez of Hampton. He has entered similar contests in the past, but has never won.
Perez says he hopes to change that this weekend. "I'm looking forward to getting some promotion, and, maybe, getting signed to a record label."
Perez adds that he appreciates what Morrison is doing for him and his fellow performers, by sponsoring the event. "This can get kids' minds off drugs and gang violence, and keep them on the right path."
Raven Lawrence, 13, of McDonough, will perform in a trio during the showcase, with two friends with whom she attends classes at Union Grove Middle School. Lawrence says the group members are "like sisters," and are eagerly anticipating the chance to follow in the footsteps of their favorite artists. "We can all sing," she says. "We see videos on TV by people like Destiny's Child and think, 'We can do that, too.'"
Fourteen-year-old rapper, Jared Addison of Ellenwood, will also offer his talents during the showcase. Addison says he hopes to unleash his inner performer on those in attendance. "Every day when I get home, I pop a CD in and act like I'm in front of a crowd."
Addison, who goes by the stage name "Trouble the Youngsta," says he earned the moniker because of his reputation as a "class clown" in school. Although he has retained his care-free nickname, Addison says he toned down his activities because of a desire to pursue his passion. "I stopped being a class clown because I kept getting in trouble and couldn't go out on the weekends or do anything with music."
His mother, Charisma Addison, watched her son rehearse Thursday for his performance at the club. She says Morrison had a "wonderful" idea when she came up with the showcase concept. "The kids have an opportunity to show their talents, not only to friends and family, but also to people who are already in the music industry," she says. "This is good for the youth in the community."
Admission to the showcase is $10.
On Sunday, Spotlight will host a model call from 3 p.m., to 6 p.m., in preparation for a teen fashion show scheduled for Nov. 23. Proceeds from that fund-raiser will benefit Haven House. For more information, visit www.spotlightmcdonough.com.