By Patsy Isenberg
A visit and performance by a New York City dance troupe, Step Afrika!, and a Broadway-style show at the newly-reopened Capitol Theatre are features of an April 2-6 spring break program for Flint students age 4 to 17 announced Tuesday..
The Morris Peterson Jr. Foundation, started by 11-year NBA veteran and Flint Northwestern High School alum Morris Peterson, is partnering with United Way of Genesee County, the Boys and Girls Club of Flint and Mott Community College.
Peterson, a former Michigan State basketball star, and representatives of the other sponsoring groups jointly introduced the program.
The newly renovated Capitol Theatre will play a part, hosting a performance by the Step Afrika! dance troupe on Friday, April 6, the last day of the spring break schedule.
Sponsors said throughout the week activities will be offered to encourage and develop leadership and teamwork skills and new experiences for Flint kids.
The week will be capped off with the chance to see a Broadway show. Participants and their parents will be invited to the Step Afrika! performance at the Capitol Theatre. Tickets to the show will also available to the general public.
“Wow, the kids in Flint are gonna get to see a Broadway show!” Peterson said in describing the event. “If I’d have had something like this when I was coming up, I would have jumped on it 100 percent. I just feel so blessed to be a part of it.”
Mayor Karen Weaver welcomed the proposal. “Our kids all need to be exposed and involved in all kinds of activities,” she said, adding she hopes parents will take advantage of the opportunity for their kids and that it’s one more positive step toward Flint’s recovery from the difficulties of the past few years.
According to materials provided to the press, the Morris Peterson Jr. Foundation has worked to help disadvantaged Flint-area youths and their families in several ways. The founder of the philanthropy Peterson, was raised in Flint by parents who were both educators, and he still lives in the area.
MPJF provides help with dental services, Thanksgiving dinners and backpacks containing school supplies for kids. It also holds basketball camps. Peterson received a degree in child development from Michigan State University on an athletic scholarship and went on to play professional basketball. Venturing into this first annual spring break program is a natural progression for MPJF, its spokespersons said, and they hope to repeat it each year.
Tonda Peterson-Bryant, executive director of the MPJF and Morris Peterson’s sister, described “reaching out” to the other Flint organizations and noting how much more can be done when several groups work together.
Peterson said she had seen the off-Broadway production of the troupe’s show at The New Victory Theater in New York and dreamed of bringing them to Flint. Jarret Haynes, the Capitol Theatre’s executive director, said that the restoration of the Capitol Theatre has created a perfect venue for a live show like Step Afrika!
Peterson-Bryant said she spoke to members of Step Afrika! in New York and remarked that “…they want to help. They just know that something happened here and…they feel this is their opportunity to help.”
The activities will take place at both the Boys and Girls Club and Mott Community College.
Dale Weighill, associate vice president for institutional advancement at Mott Community College, said he hopes participants will get “a sliver of what academic life is like” and meeting current students. He added that since some of the participants might not have ever visited a college campus, Mott hopes to “reduce the intimidation factor.”
Applications for the spring break program are available at the Boys and Girls Club, 3701 N Averill Ave., Flint 48506. More information is available at 810-249-3413 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information can also be found about the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint at www.bgclubflint.org
At Michigan State, Peterson was an All-American, first-team All Big Ten and Most Outstanding Player during the 2000 National Championship game which the Spartans won. He graduated with a degree in child development, and played for the Toronto Raptors, the New Orleans Hornets and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Michigan State retired his #42 jersey in 2009. He lives in Flint and owns a transportation company and clothing line, World Artist Refuge.
EVM staff writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at email@example.com.
Caption for Group Shot:
Left to right: Tauzzari Robinson, Jarret Haynes, Mayor Karen Weaver, Morris Peterson, Tonda Peterson-Bryant, Marseille Allen, and Dale K. Weighill.