The Online Gala of the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) Celebrates Youth Arts and Community on October 16, 2020 at 8PM

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On October 16, 2020, from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, NCCF will gather its community to recognize the vibrancy of our ever-emerging world with a hybrid virtual livestream gala entitled Together We Rise: The HeART of Community. This unique event will highlight the unparalleled youth talent in this region and provide an awe-inspiring virtual experience for both our audience and participants.

Without a doubt, the most exciting aspect of this event will be the exceptional performances from young artists, musicians, and dancers who attend our storied DC-area institutions” Marcus Johnson

On October 16, 2020, from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, NCCF will gather its community to recognize the vibrancy of our ever-emerging world with a hybrid virtual livestream gala entitled Together We Rise: The HeART of Community. This unique event will highlight the unparalleled youth talent in this region and provide an awe-inspiring virtual experience for both our audience and participants.

“Without a doubt, the most exciting aspect of this event will be the exceptional performances from young artists, musicians, and dancers who attend our storied DC-area institutions,” says Marcus Johnson a Billboard-ranked musician and NAACP Image Award nominated jazz keyboardist and pianist. Marcus will make an appearance alongside NCCF’s outstanding line-up of nine (9) youth gifted performances. The evening will be hosted by lead emcee Drew Olivia Tillman, a talent 14 year-old native Washingtonian, stand-out actress, and singer. Drew has found early success in Hollywood acting on TV series including This Is Us and Mixed-ish as well as the Netflix feature Roxanne Roxanne.

“Drew will be guiding us through an evening of fun, exciting and interactive programs including a special performance by Soul Train Award winner and celebrated jazz artist MAYSA. I am looking forward to being among such exceptional talent,” Johnson says.

Along with Ms. Tillman the following youth acts will round out an evening rich with poetry, song, and dance.

Kelvin Dukes: Fourteen-year-old Burtonsville native, Kevin Dukes made his way to the quarter finals of America’s Got Talent 2020 and it looks like his talent will take him on a journey straight to the top! He started singing at the age of three. He has performed all over Maryland and Washington, DC., from Prince George’s, Montgomery, Calvert County. He recently took part in the 2020 Montgomery County Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day tribute. Kelvin also had the honor of performing Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” at the 2019 NAACP ACT-SO Awards Ceremony in Detroit’s Fox Theatre. Kelvin is a very humble and positive person.

Autumn-Sky Leroy: A classically trained orchestral musician, Autumn lives in Bowie, MD. Performing with diverse ensembles in Washington D.C. and Maryland since the age of 4, she has served as Concertmaster of the DC Youth Orchestra, First Chair First Violin of the DC Youth Orchestra and Violinist with the Levine School of Music. Autumn-Sky is often asked to step to the front of the stage as a soloist, where she performs with the Levine School of Music. She enjoys playing jazz and songs from the civil rights movement. A student at Glenarden Woods Elementary, this 10-year-old violin virtuoso will play music by Friedrich Seitz.

Lay-T.C. and Marc Anthony Castro: Hip-Hop Recording artist Lay-T.C. and her little brother Marc Anthony were born into music. The children of Neo-soul Recording Artist Lahla-Hadiya and Well-known Bassist, Johnnie Castro, they are destined for greatness. From Temple Hills, MD, Lay-T.C., age 14, attends the Prince George’s Academy of Health and Sciences. Marc Anthony, age 12, attends Benjamin D. Foulois Performing Arts Academy. Both have proven to be naturals behind a mic. This dynamic duo is a force to be reckoned with and will certainly make their mark in the music world. Their effortless harmonies and angelic sound is breathtaking.

Kalen Simpson: A 16-year-old dancer from Prince George’s County, MD, he currently is an 11th grader at Suitland High School Center for Visual and Performing Arts. Kalen started dancing at the age of 7 at Dance Dimensions in Forestville, Maryland. He has been exposed to different styles of dance throughout his years, winning numerous awards at local and national dance competitions. He has trained with various dance professionals across the country including Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Dance Theater of Harlem, Dissonance Dance Theater, and Divine Dance Institute. A true creative artist, Kalen will perform a piece he choreographed himself.

Naiya Dawson: A 17-year old dancer who grew up in Silver Spring, MD, Naiya began her dance journey at the tender age of 3. Throughout the years, Naiya has trained in many dance techniques and been fortunate to work with many talented professional dancers and choreographers. She is currently a conservatory student at CityDance School and Conservatory. She has trained with both the Dance Theater of Harlem and Koresh Dance Company. Her most recent performance includes a piece choreographed by Marie McNair in the Intersections Dance Festival 2020 and Gallery choreographed by Sarah J. Ewing. A current Senior at Blake High School, Naiya desires to pursue a career in dance and become a Radiologist. Naiya will perform her own choreographed work.

Jory Holmes: Also known as “J.Holmes,” Jory is an actor who started his career at the young age of 4. This 18 year old from Bowie, MD has performed all over the DMV area including Colonial Players of Annapolis, Baltimore Centerstage, and Tantallon Community Players. In addition to acting, J.Holmes has also left his mark in the DMV nightlife. He’s a host and MC for concerts, parties, and social events and has opened up for and worked with some of music’s hottest artists, including Shy Glizzy, Rico Nasty, and Da Baby! A recent graduate from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, J.Holmes is a Freshman student attending Columbia College Chicago. He is working towards a BFA in Acting with a minor in Music Business. Jory will perform a poem written by Daniel Beaty.

Marjan Naderi: Marjan is an Afghan-American writer and educator based in Washington, D.C. As a 6-time Poetry Grand Slam Champion, Marjan has been featured on NowThis News, The Washington Post, NPR, the United Nation’s Girl Up Campaign, NBC News, Amazon Prime, the Kennedy Center, D.C. United, Nike, and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Her writing has been recognized by The Adroit Journal, Brave New Voices, the Split This Rock Database, and The National YoungArts Foundation where she was nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts Award. Marjan, the 18 year old author of Bloodline, also is the 2020 D.C. Youth Poet Laureate. A Freshman student at the University of Virginia, Marjan will recite a poem that she wrote with a peer poet.

Together We Rise is a free, online community event open to all. Register today at http://www.heartofcommunity.org.

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Rachel Spassiani
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