Chaney performers join Stand Against Racism
By Denise Dick
Cast members of the Chaney Visual and Performing Arts “Ragtime” production joined their voices and the show’s message with the YWCA of Youngstown’s Stand Against Racism.
The students performed vignettes from the Tony Award-winning play, which they performed last fall with Canfield High School students, Thursday morning at the YWCA’s third Stand Against Racism event.
Eliminating racism and empowering women is the mission of the national YWCA, said Leah Brooks, executive director.
“Our objective is to bring organizations together who believe, like we do, that by
working together, we can end racism,” said Deborah Liptak, YWCA board president.
Tracy Schuler-Vivo, Chaney VPA coordinator, said “Ragtime” “explores the quintessential American experience” through the lives of three families from three different backgrounds and cultures: upper-class suburbanites, European immigrants and residents of Harlem.
“The message of the musical of ‘Ragtime’ is an important message of hope and the story of the melting pot of America,” Schuler-Vivo said.
Music has broken many barriers, she said.
“I recently became a parent. I have a little girl at home,” Schuler-Vivo said, holding back tears. “It’s my wish that she will grow up in a world without racism.”
Students from the two high schools, mostly black students from Chaney and mostly white from Canfield, joined for the “Ragtime” rehearsals and performances and learned about each other in the process. “You would have thought that they would have different personalities,” said Chaney freshman La’Rayja Hill. “But when we met them, we act the same way.”
Students said they cultivated lasting friendships with performers from the other school.
“We right away just clicked, and it was pretty dope,” said senior Nico Mostella.
Thursday’s event at First Presbyterian Church also included small-group discussions about racism, its meaning and effects.
It was sponsored by the church, Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, the city schools, Youngstown State University’s Bitonte College of Health and Human Services and the Office of Student Diversity Programs, the James and Coralie Centofanti Center for the Health and Welfare of Vulnerable Populations and Chaney VPA.
Soprano Sophia Brooks, who is black, said the students’ performance at the church demonstrated a departure from the way things were years ago.
“Sixty years ago, I was a soloist in this church and we weren’t allowed here,” she said. “To see you here, it blessed me.”