A cohort of young artists will put on a multigenre production of their own making, “Spoke From the Soil: When Love is a Thing Called Home” for two days only this May 14 and 15 at Ypsilanti High’s Community Theatre.
The group, all members of a program called Staying Power/Staying Home, has penned an original script under the leadership of this year’s Artistic Director, program alumni and staff member Shane Collins.
It will address themes of home, belonging, gentrification and housing justice inspired by their lived experiences growing up in Ypsi. Through theater, spoken-word poetry, music and movement, these artists will ask hard questions and share their dreams for the future of Ypsi, creating a space for communal joy, healing and transformation.
“‘Spoke from the Soil’ is important because it tackles a lot of really relevant issues through its characters and story in a beautiful, complex way,” said Aurora Love, one of the teen cast members. “I’m really excited for people to see this.”
“We are real people living in Ypsilanti,” said Maria Theocharakis, a fellow cast member and Staying Power staff member. “May the visions and dreams of my community outlive us and bloom as close to your house as possible.”
Staying Power/Staying Home has a history as rich as that of the community it uplifts. The program has roots in a sister city across the country in California’s Bay Area community of Richmond, where program coordinator Molly Raynor co-founded a youth performing arts program in 2008 with the city’s former poet laureate Donté Clark. A Michigan native, when Raynor returned to her home state, Clark visited — and immediately felt a connection between his hometown and Ypsilanti, both being small, historically Black, family-oriented cities with rich cultural histories.
The two teamed up again to build off the work happening in both communities, co-founding a youth poetry program with Ypsi-based young leaders Samuel Martin and Sakinah and Zakiyyah Rahman (aka Ain’t Afraid). They called their new program “Staying Power,” a name borrowed from an affordable housing advocacy group in Richmond. Teens in Richmond and Ypsilanti participated in a cultural exchange program, visiting each other’s cities and collaborating on the first Staying Power show in 2019 to an audience of 500.
Despite the challenges of the last two years, the Staying Power cohort continued to meet over zoom, adding Staying Home, a new sister program which provides a virtual arts respite for teens constricted by economic, transportation or disability barriers. Now, the members and staff of Staying Power/Staying Home are more eager than ever to share their work, joined by new teens in the program. The cast of 21 young artists are collaborating with Ypsilanti Community High School’s choir and their dynamic director Crystal Harding, weaving live music into the show.
“‘Spoke From the Soil’ isn’t just a performance but also a call to action to speak your truth,” said Samuel Martin, a cast member and Staying Power co-founder.
Staying Power/Staying Home’s latest production is open to the public and hopes to draw an intergenerational crowd, centering young people in the audience (recommended for ages 13 and up).
Ypsilanti Community High School, 2095 Packard St., Ypsilanti.
May 14 from 6-8 pm and May 15 from 2-4 pm
$5 for youth (21 & under)
$15 for adults (22 & up)
$50 for VIPs (all ages)
Free for students who attend Ypsilanti middle and high schools
Free for groups of young people who come on field trips
Tickets can be purchased by visiting emich.edu/engage/stayingpower. A limited supply of tickets will be available at the door, but it is recommended to purchase them in advance. Discounts will be available for groups of 5+ adults. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on free and discounted tickets and/or if you’d like a wheelchair accessible spot reserved.
A video preview of the show can be seen here.
About Staying Power/Staying Home
Staying Power/Staying Home is a youth-driven movement for housing justice and belonging through arts activism. By way of workshops, live performances, publications and a podcast, Staying Power works to address gentrification and preserve Black and Indigenous history, culture and art in Washtenaw County. Staying Home, a sister program, provides a virtual arts respite for teens constricted by economic, transportation or disability barriers. For more information, visit Staying Power/Staying Home’s website.
About Engage @ EMU
Engage@EMU is the University’s outward facing office charged with cultivating relationships and initiating and/or coordinating community and business partnerships and programs.
About the YCHS Choir
The YCHS Choir is a resilient group of students grades 9 through 12 who enjoy sharing their talents with their community. In this regrouping school year, they have performed at Survivors Speak’s Peace Day, YpsiGlow, Ypsilanti Depot Town Association’s Tree Lighting, Depot Town’s Christmas Bazaar, Christmas Eve at Ypsilanti Free Methodist Church, two virtual performances for the City of Ypsilanti and YCHS’ Black Heritage Collage Concert and Fool Moon in Ann Arbor. They have more performances in June, including three in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The YCHS Choir hopes this collaboration with Staying Power/Staying Home is the beginning of a beautiful partnership.