2018 Youth Empowerment Conference

This blog post is actually from an interview with my 12 year-old-son, JR, on his experience at his first-ever African American Youth Think Tank event.  He is sharing his thoughts, and he also took the photos you will see below.  I think he did pretty well for his first time assisting with a blog post and trying to use a camera on subjects in constant motion!

The 4th Annual Youth Empowerment Conference was held on February 16 at the Roosevelt Middle School in Cedar Rapids.  The event was attended by local schools in the area, with the Iowa City region also busing students up for the event.  This year’s theme was “Everyone Has A Purpose; What Is Mine?”.   JR says his purpose is to be a foreign-exchange student and visit other cities around the world.

The morning consisted of inspirational speakers; an explanation of what the Think Tank is (a way for people to discuss current issues, hold seminars, and provide inspiration for our youth); and several sessions with local leaders Dr. Carols Grant, Kim Fitten, and Dr. Okpara Rice.  JR’s favorite speaker of the morning was Miss Iowa and KZIA 102.9 Radio Personality, Jenny V.

The keynote speaker of the conference was Jason Sole, PhD, from Chicago.  Check out a previous post about Jason here.  JR enjoyed this speech and was impressed with how Jason turned his life around to go to college after being in a gang.

Local businesses offered a career fair for the youth to dream and plan for what they want to do in the future.  JR’s favorite business owner was John Grant from Chameleon Candy.  John’s business serves “Little Jimmy’s Italian Ices” at local events, and he can also be booked for private parties and corporate events.  Check out his website here.

At the end of the event, local artists provided a live concert for the kids.  Rapper Jordan Burgett from Cedar Rapids performed first.  Dizzy was up next, and Buddha was the final rapper.  Buddha was impressive with all of the big words he was able to rhyme.  The concert closed with R&B artist Alicia Monee, whose beautiful voice filled the auditorium.  JR’s favorite song was her performance of “The Man In The Mirror” by Michael Jackson.  Everyone was up out of their seats and dancing along!

Alicia Monee
Alicia Monee 
Buddha.jpg
Buddha

The Youth Empowerment Conference is a free, annual event to support youth in our area.  For more information, see the African American Youth Think Tank Facebook page.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit

Recently, we had the chance to see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at the beautiful Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids. I had actually not heard of Jason before, but my husband had and really likes his music. I was very impressed when I heard him play.

James McMurty
James McMurty and his band perform the opening set.  Photo Credit:  jhlstudios.com

James McMurty from Austin, TX was the opening act. If you like guitar, this is a great set to watch. James and his band play really great Folk/Americana music with lots of guitar switches and great jamming with each other.

Jason Isbell
Jason Isbell on guitar; band member Derry deBorja on accordion.  Photo Credit:  jhlstudios.com

Jason Isbell is from the Muscle Shoals region of Northwest Alabama. His music is Folk/Alternative Country. He and the band The 400 Unit are currently on tour to promote their newest album, “The Nashville Sound”. Jason won 2 Grammys in 2016 for Best Americana Album (“Something More Than Free”) and Best American Roots Song (“24 Frames). The crowd went wild as he played “24 Frames”; it was definitely one of their favorite songs played that night! Jason won 2 more Grammys in 2018—Best Americana Album (“The Nashville Sound”) and Best American Roots Song (“If We Were Vampires”).

Graphic
One of the awesome graphics!  Photo Credit:  jhlstudios.com

A magnificent light show illuminated the concert. The colors were very basic whites, blues, greens, and browns that enhanced the classic, soulful feel of his songs.

My favorite songs of the night included “Decoration Day”, “White Man’s World”, and “Last of My Kind”. “Decoration Day” chronicle a feud between two families and how the cycle will finally stop. “White Man’s World” tackles the tough issues of social privilege and inequalities among the cultures in this country. “Last of My Kind” really resonated with me because I am from a small town in Central Iowa when we just do things a little bit differently and a whole lot more simple than everyone else. Now I live in a bigger city and sometimes I just feel lost in the shuffle.

If you have a chance to hear Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on their tour, you won’t be disappointed! Ticket prices are very reasonable and well worth the time spent listening to great music.

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