The TECA Project is teen empowerment through Carnival Arts, and is supported through an Indiegogo Campaign created by Rachel Watts. To fully understand the importance of this campaign and the program it supports, people across the United States and elsewhere in the world will need a quick look into the world of Carnival and the importance that this event can have to young people in East New York. Let’s begin with the Carnival.
The West-Indian American Day Carnival is hosted annually by the WIADCA, or West Indian American Day Carnival Association. It is held on Labor Day in Brooklyn, and re-creates an important festival that was held in the Caribbean. Originally, it was a big release of energy, just before the onset of Lent – very similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The parade in New York has its roots in the 1920s when Jessie Waddell and her friends from the Caribbean held large costume parties indoors, since the weather in February in New York isn’t very pleasant for summery costumes. The first recorded Labor Day parade was held in 1947, in Harlem. Today, millions of people come from all over on Labor Day for the festivities, just as they flock to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. To gain a feel for the energy and atmosphere of the parade, visit the WIADCA Facebook page, and watch just a few of the video clips. Even on video, the vibrancy, the life and the color are just amazing. Imagine being a teen and being able to participate in that kind of atmosphere as a performer.
The TECA Project is intended to introduce teens to crafts, music and more that is associated with the arts that are celebrated during Carnival. Rachel Watts, founder of the TECA Project, explains that Carnival is about participation – dressing in costume, performing, engaging in an amazing, and high energy party – but that many of today’s teens, because of financial constraints and lack of opportunity, will only be able to participate as observers. She wants to change that. Youngsters who participate in the Teen Empowerment through Carnival Arts will come together to form a band, create a theme, make costumes and take part in the Carnival Parade. They will be introduced to mentors who can inspire them, and will have instructors to help implement the process. The program will purchase the supplies and pay the teens – ages 13-19 – a small stipend for participation. (The project will be limited to ten students.) The youngsters will have the opportunity to practice a variety of skills and to develop leadership. These skills can be translated into future work skills that can lead to additional success and these youngsters grow into adulthood.
Rachel Watts is a veteran of working with teen empowerment and the arts. She has more than 15 years of experience with working with youth in the arts. She has a background in education and youth development, and is experienced with developing programs that give teens a chance to learn and to grow. She was born in Ghana, and is passionate about music, dance, theater, art and cultures of the world.
Rachel has set the TECA Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign goal at $10,000 – which is a modest sum for a program of this sort. The campaign is currently 39% funded, with 19 days to go. The money would pay for $150 for each student as a stipend for participation. It would also pay the fees for guest speakers, trips to art centers and for the supplies needed for the project, as well as trip expenses, space rental and parade fees. If you cannot contribute cash, and live in the area, volunteers are welcome, as are donated materials and other in kind contributions. If none of that is a possibility for you, spread the word – let others know, so that this project does not fall under the radar for lack of communication. While rewards for contributing to the campaign are modest – most of the money needs to go to the youngsters and their project – you can obtain t-shirts or totes to display your support. Also available is admission to the teen lead band on August 15th.
This is one of those Indiegogo crowdfunding campaigns where you can make a big difference, crowdfunders. Programs such as this one open doors for young artists and performers, creating a vision of the possible opportunities that lie beyond their own neighborhood – or perhaps, even within their neighborhood. For some of them, it will be a pleasant memory, but for others it might be the start of a career. Your contribution to this crowdfunding campaign could make the difference of a lifetime for one or more of these youngsters.