The Spotlight 2018
I was the host for Totem Star’s 2018 Fundraiser, The Spotlight. Lemme tell you how that was.
On October 12th, 2018, The Spotlight came together as less of a fundraiser and more of a family showcase, afters weeks of preparations, meetings and rehearsals that saved us from our daily schedules.
4 performances from 6 different artists that represent separate genres of Totem Star but the entirety of the Totem Star family. We’ll have testimonies from some of the artists that graced the stage- effecting us all with their love and passion for music, family, self-development and improvement. The Spotlight reminded me, as the host and a fellow intern and artist of Totem Star, of the importance of the youth movement that is this non-profit, the fundraisers and every performance we put on for groups of amazing audiences and other fam that chooses to support our cause and giving us all the chance to get better at our crafts and craft better spaces for us to create and invite more family in.
It was always an honor to be in the room full of artists that made up the family that changed my life when I was 14.
Rushing back and forth through the fill-in venue, a certain tension cursing my veins not to rest the last 30 minutes before showtimes, I found my anxiety restless. Tonight was not one of intended perfection, but of telling so many stories that all had one thing in common: this is my family and this is what family does for one another. I knew I had a duty— 17, a high school senior and no where near a professional entertainer, I had to put forth my best foot to make tonight one that everyone who left remembered.
Itinerary in hand and one of my best fashion statements, I tried to take deep breaths before I stepped on stage.
Many pep-talks and back pats later, Bestock tells me that he is on his way up to the booth to present me. I’m short for breath and can’t find my heart anywhere except in my stomach and it’s beating erratically. It’s actually ridiculous how many times I’ve performed on the Thelma DeWitty theater stage in Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, and yet each time the feeling is more life-or-death than before. I realize as my name courses through the speakers in the theater, that this is what I live for.
The anxiety, the pounding in my chest, the sweaty palms, the passion to make every performance better than the last, to make my family proud.
I look around at the crowd. These awesome youth artists ready to sing their hearts out. I take a gulp of water, and deep breath—
“Welcoming your host for the Spotlight—kidLIO!”
Horns by Bryce Fox slams through the speakers, and it’s like a white light envelops me for the rest of the night.
The night was opened by Red Eagle Soaring with a beautiful introduction for the Native space.
Interviewed Daniel Pak—a mentor and co-founder of Totem Star about his passion for helping us youth.
Then, our first performer after a dope interview with a fellow artist Zo— a Georgia state—singing an original song, gave the audience an fun beginning to our showcase—leaving everyone gleaming in that experience. He spoke in our interview together about his first time performing at a talent show and how he got made fun of by kids he knew from school. How he has progressed anyhow past the hate and I’m sure it’s only the beginning for his journey through music, startling crowds with his honesty and talent to make any song lit! He tells us about his night went:
My time on the late night show with LIO was absolutely fantastic. I felt like my presence had meaning and my life was unfolding like a written script for a new tv show. I met a slew of people who wanted to know about Totem Star as a whole and why I joined the organization. The Spotlight was truly an experience to die for; and it’s all because of Daniel Pak and our amazing MC, LIO!
Following the first performance of the night, was a dynamic duo, Justus and Sarah— whose cover of The Moon Song, surely left everyone swooning for their chemistry on stage and the amazing clashes of their voices. In our interview, we spoke about they decided to collaborate on a song, what brought them to Totem Star and their choice of song. It was all genuine to the idea of them wanting a place to be their best artistic selves and have a chance for the world to see that.
They, indeed, left quite the impression on every person in the crowd— who all rooted for this collaboration. We’re hoping to see them perform together again soon at another Totem Star event.
Promptly after these two performances, the crowd were just left dazzling in fire from the heat of these awesome inside look to the passion of these artists and how we come together. Little did they know, the night was far from over and there more amazing performances to come.
After we thanked our sponsors and volunteers for the event (Food & Sh*t, A DJ & A Cook, That Brown Girl Cooks!, Sam Choy’s Poke To the Max), I found myself settling back into my Jimmy Fallon chair next to another artist, Zoë Roberts, a singer-songwriter from Washington. A native to Totem Star since she was a pre-teen, we sat to talk about her experience as a singer and how it can get scary to perform songs so full of emotions to audiences unknown. As fearless as they come for her age, Zoë still performed an original song entitled, Why?
Later, she shared her experiences of the night:
The spotlight was such an amazing night where people from all over got to see how amazing and influential our program is. They got to see us all working together as a family, and I realized how lucky I am to be a part of Totem Star, and how I probably wouldn’t be a musician still if it wasn't for all the love and support I have got from everyone there.
Zoë exited the stage with everyone in tears, her heartfelt performance obviously striking each individual beautifully.
Although there couldn’t ever be anyone that follow up the raw intensity of every artist before, my colleague, Mirabai Kukathas, found her way onto the stage and spoke with me briefly about a song we were performing together following the setup of the stage.
We spoke about how we wrote the song Rise, LIO the primary lyricist for the entire song, and Mirabai helping create melodies.
Her mention of her experience at The Spotlight:
Singing, speaking, just being at, and helping to organize the Spotlight was a real honor. I love this community so much, and anything I can do to be here, let alone help, makes me so happy. I got to sing a beautiful song I wrote with one of my best friends, I got to talk about what makes this community so great, and possibly best of all, I got to meet and be around some truly wonderful people.
After our small session of LIO: Jimmy Fallon who? with Totem Star artists, we settled onto the stage with:
Daniel Pak on drums, Justus on bass, Matt Sablan on guitar and Michael Grant on piano keys for our song Rise.
The crowd: our family, was so amazing at supporting. A photographer for the event, Danielle Elliott even caught a few pictures of the incredible participation for this moment.
Once Rise closed the night, before our Raise the Paddle, our DJ for the night, ZAG plays us all out as we exit the stage. He says this about his opportunity to be DJ for an event like the Spotlight:
It was so awesome being the DJ for the night. I got to compile a list of 70s and 80s Soul and Funk, which was a challenging because I’m not familiar with the genres but it was fun digging through the music and picking my set. It made me step out of my comfort zone in terms of what music I’m DJ’ing, but it’s definitely good for my artistry and the diversity of music I have to expose myself to.
The night went beautifully.
The rush I get from performing Rise as a black rap artist is constantly a new experience. I find happiness in our origin of creativity and the stage is one of the places.
I can’t believe that I went from the studio to that stage and every time my story is still being told.
The way I find myself as an artist is also the way I find myself as a human being— the type of artistry I put out into the world is all effected by the spaces they come from, what spaces harbor that energy and what spaces allow me to process those emotions.
The Spotlight was only one of the times that I found myself being listened to, that I watched artists be shown that if they chase their dreams they can meet them at the finish line.