By: Gail Andrews
Performing Arts professionals that reside in Pensacola are growing in their artistry and national and international relationship development. A great example is the work of Nielah Spears who just returned from Havana, Cuba with a group of students and professors from Florida A & M University (FAMU) to conduct her “yearly service learning facilitation tour” in one of the many countries she’s traveled. In August of this year two students from the University of West Florida and Pensacola State College, along with one student from Faulkner State College and several students from FAMU and Tallahassee Community College and two students from Pensacola High School will travel to Cuba.
The goal is to develop international relationships for the local and national performing arts programs through Spears newly established 501(c) 3 non-profit, Performance, Blessings, and Jazz Inc. or PB&J Inc., based here in Pensacola, Florida. The mission of the program is to create platforms for local and national artists for domestic (United States) and international audiences. PB&J program’s goal is to teach the arts as a way of life, using performing arts and culture to develop the person and communities. The innovation of PB&J including agriculture as a learning experience in the Cuban visit which opens the doors for the inclusion of strategies leading to self-sufficiency for community partners in addition to the arts and cultural training and presentations.
In an interview with the Gulf Coast Voice Spears says, “Out of the 4 continents I have traveled, I have never seen a people, that have been described by the media and the U.S. Government as being held in bondage by communism, appear to be so free! From the 7 year old child, to the 75 year old male and female, everyone from the lightest, to the darkest person, they were all very proud of their African heritage roots and culture. More than anything else they were all bold about sharing their history, as well as questioning outsiders of their own history”.
This year’s PB&J’s menu of programs are as follows: On Thursday, May 11th a reception will be held at Voices of Pensacola from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm at 117 E. Government Street followed by a FREE public event with a performance and lecture from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Museum of Commerce at 201 E. Zaragoza Street with an opening act from Sunni Patterson, a world renowned poet, singer and activist. Chief Araba (Araba stands for King) Ifayeme Elebuibon of Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria is the featured speaker for the evening. The Chief is a world renowned Ifa Priest, author, playwright, producer, and performing artist.
The title of the presentations by the Chief is “Out of One Influenced Many”. The program will focus on the origins of the Arts, Culture, Music, History, and African Artifacts and their impact on global education. Additionally, the West African Intensive Summer Dance and Drum Camp will be held from June 23rd to July 23rd, 2017 from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm daily at Voices of Pensacola with a Final Showcase at Woodland Heights Community Center on July 23rd. Classes will be from Monday-Friday. For more information on tuition, fees, and scholarships please contact Nielah Spears at (850) 529-8959, who could not accomplish this significant contribution of performing arts impact without the support of her husband, Russell Spears and her Board of Directors. PB&J is still accepting financial support and sponsorships to carry out these impactful programs and Spears can be contacted at the same phone number listed above for funding needs.