Children in southeast D.C. celebrate the return of UniverSoul Circus. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Children in southeast D.C. celebrate the return of UniverSoul Circus. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

First of a two-part series

Kids and parents gathered at Check It Enterprises in southeast D.C. for a night of fun, food and clownery as UniverSoul Circus delighted community children with a sneak peek of what’s in store when the troupe moves to the National Harbor on Thursday, July 18 for a special pre-show featuring the TOB band.

The event launched a partnership with UniverSoul Circus and the S.O.S. Pathways to Resiliency Campaign, a collaborative effort between the Rev. Dr. Keith W. Byrd and various other community partners to “teach young people resilience and guide them in the right direction.”

The yearlong initiative will include programs geared towards school-age children and their families.

Many of those in attendance say they’ve become ardent fans of the Circus.

“I take my kids every year and I’ve been going since I was a kid myself,” said Dee Dwyer, a native Washingtonian who lives in Southeast.

Ammar Vandor, a fourth grader, said, “I had fun tonight. I go to the circus every year and it’s fun. There’s cotton candy and popcorn.”

Onionhead, “the clown from the hood,” strutted his stuff, doing magic tricks and engaging the crowd kids in his unique way. Some who joined him in his antics won tickets to upcoming performances which runs through July 28.

Kim Smith, a mother and grandmother, urged that the community should hold more events and programs geared toward children and youth.

“There need to be more programs for these kids so they won’t keep getting into trouble – getting into stuff and just hanging out on the block,” Smith said. “They need things to do.”

Others said they felt the evening performance boosted camaraderie and morale within the community.

“I believe events like this we had tonight actually bring people together and establish greater unity. But they also bring families from around the ward and around the community together,” said Tenika Brown.

“Having safe spaces like Check It are important for the youth. Check It is a lighthouse within this ward for so many families who have not achieved the financial stability of those in the middle class.”

The matter of accessibility to arts and entertainment was also brought up by some parents in attendance. Some said it can be a challenge to get to events and programs held outside of their respective ward. Many admitted they would not have been able to get their children to National Harbor and were grateful that the show came to their neighborhood.

“It’s tough getting downtown and to these programs. Yes, there are events throughout the District but what does transportation from MLK to Mississippi Avenue look like?” Jawana Hardy said.

Overall, parents said they were glad that there was a community-oriented event for their children in a safe space and hope that similarly-themed opportunities will follow.

When asked about her daughter’s reaction, Mariah Shanklin said the following.

“It was cute. She had fun, she ate well and we won some circus tickets,” Shanklin said.

In part two of this series, we’ll take a closer look at the UniverSoul Circus S.O.S. Resiliency Campaign and talk with some of the business and religious leaders from the DMV and beyond committed to sustaining community-based interventions that foster healthy, resilient young people.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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