– Photos and commentary by Thrive Intern Chandler Simpson (UNC Chapel Hill)
The 2018 Queens HeART Beat Festival was a carefully ordered sequence of frenetic rhythms set by DJ Tony Tone’s spinning onstage. The controlled chaos unleashed a torrent of energy constantly harnessed through the many creative outlets around the park, from visual arts to music and theater, from video game design to dance. The middle school students came ready to laugh and move. By channeling this innate energy, the festival ensured that Roy Wilkins Park became Jamaica, Queens’ most dynamic place to be on May 30th.
The best surprises came in unexpected opportunities. The students were not only allowed but encouraged to do graffiti, bust moves unapologetically, and talk and even yell at their cohorts in skits and theater games. Everywhere I looked, images begged to be captured: headstands and endless cartwheels by the stage, competitive games in the field, focused painting by the murals, excitement by the graffiti wall, lively enthusiasm in the theater, and dance moves all around.
At the fourteen activity centers, the movements mesmerized so much so that I feared photography simply wouldn’t do them justice. It was amazing to see 480 middle school students channel all of this positive energy into a sequence of artistic acts, in a unique outlet for kids who may not always feel like they have a place or the time to create.
I hope the day showed them the million ways one can create, and not destroy, in artistic, beautiful, and positive ways, so we can avoid the tragedies that caused by idle hands.
Thank you NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, and Council Members Donovan Richards, Adrienne Adams, and Jimmy Van Bramer for trusting us to celebrate the initiative with the great students of IS 42, PS/MS 183, IS 8, IS 72, IS 111, and IS 204. Special thanks to our collaborating arts education partners and staff from the Black Spectrum Theatre, Museum of the Moving Image, and Everybody Dance Now; fifteen arts educators; DJ Tony Tone; Paradigm from Speak Lyfe Entertainment; graphic design by EMJ Squared; volunteers from five Jamaica congregations; and producer extraordinaire Randy Mason.