If you happen to be visiting THEARC in Southeast or the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Northwest later this month and find yourself face-to-face with Rep. Elijah Cummings, Kobe Bryant, Sojourner Truth or Michelle Obama, just go with the flow and count your lucky stars.
Back by popular demand, the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center’s (SETLC) Young Scholars return for the award-winning “14th Annual Blacks in Wax” showcase which includes performances honoring historic African Americans known locally and on the national scene.
Close to 60 youth, all budding scholars who attend the celebrated SETLC – the life-changing sports and education center conceived and founded by Cora Masters Barry which marked its 25th anniversary last November – will be transformed into larger-than-life personalities for a series of performances. They will strike a pose, ready to spring into action when prompted by anxious onlookers. Then later, they will take to the stage for a cavalcade of vignettes that will inform, inspire and entertain the audience.
Masters Barry said seeing the young people assume such iconic figures recognized for their stellar achievements and contributions to the world’s stage continues to be a sight to behold.
“These children are absolutely amazing and they’re well-prepared,” she said. “We’re even looking to take them to Broadway in the future because they’re just that good.”
The theme for this year, “VOTE Your Choice . . . Your Life,” serves as an apropos message for the Black community with the current election cycle now in full bloom and follows on the heels of last year’s performances and theme, “Young, Gifted and WOKE.”
Additional characters included this year: Beyoncé, Marvin Gaye, Cathy Hughes, Aretha Franklin, Madame CJ Walker, Ida B. Wells, P. Diddy, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Melanie Campbell, Tamika Mallory, Frederick Douglass, Barbara Jordan, Stacey Abrams, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Tom Joyner, the Supremes, Serena and Venus Williams, Rosa Parks, Ava DuVernay, Eartha Kitt, Go-Go Historians, Misty Copeland, Muhammad Ali and more.
Once again, major sponsors include the Recreation Wish List Committee, led by Masters Barry and Board Chairman Michael Rogers, in partnership with the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Kennedy Center. Reggie Van Lee returns as the executive producer for Blacks in Wax.
Created in 2006, the innovative program features SETLC scholars in period costumes posing behind rope, stanchion and tap lights as “wax statues” of iconic African Americans of the past and present. At the touch of a light, each figure comes to life with a first-person monologue depicting their contributions and place in history. The annual program also chronicles African-American history with a new, original stage production.
Masters Barry says, proudly, that the real stars of the show remain “her kids.”
“We teach our children hope and self-esteem because many of them don’t even know who they are,” she said, speaking earlier to this reporter during an unforgettable visit to the state-of-the-art SETLC facility.
“Programs we offer, like Blacks in Wax, open the door for a child who at one time could barely read to writing their monologue, then memorizing and performing it on stage before a crowd where they receive praise for their efforts,” she said.
“I cannot say it enough – these children are phenomenal,” she added.
Blacks in Wax can be seen on two dates: Friday, March 20 at THEARC, 1 p.m. – Scholars and Seniors (RSVP) required, 6 p.m. – Free Public Performance; and Sunday, March 29 at the Kennedy Center, 5:30 p.m. – Museum/Free Performance, 6 p.m. – Free Public Performance.