There is a reason that Arts is the one of the main vehicles that pushes the mission of Playing for Others forward. For most of my life I have been drawn to, consuming or participating in the arts by creating, teaching, administrating and advocating for it. I don’t believe in telling people what art isn’t but I do feel comfortable telling you what it is. And what it is for me it is the only truly human institution. Art has and will continue to deftly navigate through time and society. To say that it is a great way to bring people together is a vast understatement.

I remember as a young person wondering why I have been always interested in the arts. I was the kid when getting the opportunity to go see the ballet for the school field trip, I was actually excited. I learned early on that this was not a generally popular interest for the young black boy in Charlotte, North Carolina. When you come to that realization that the things that your interested in, music, arts, dance, etc could get you shunned on the back of the bus or just beat up for no reason, a key tenet of Darwinism begins to emerge. Not fight or flight, but adapt or die. It wasn’t until the middle of high school when I stopped covering my trumpet case with my jacket as I walked the hallways. This left me pretty shy at school. Nervous to say the wrong thing for fear that I was just too different to identify with my peers. I know I’m not alone. Most people who have been in the arts for long enough have experienced either bullying or lack of support from family or friends. The arts are tough and those who emerge and continue into their adult years are some of stronger people I know. Most of us wouldn’t change a thing BUT admittedly, being in Playing for Others during those younger days would have been pretty darn nice.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from people who have been able to experience Playing for Others that this is an organization that they wish they had had when they were younger. I said it myself. You get a sense that even with the knowledge that life will invariably go through an innumerable amount of challenges in the way of the teen participants of the Playing for Others program, the tools that they amass during their time will have them equipped to face those challenges. That is all we can ask for. We can’t stop life’s challenges. They are coming, but we can give each other the tools to face them. To me this is one of the great strengths of Playing for Others. Through the arts they learn healthy camaraderie, teamwork, love for one another, gratitude for each other’s contributions, leadership and confidence. All of the things that we adults are still (hopefully) trying to practice on a daily basis. Anything I can do to help young people like me to more easily navigate this life, I will. This is why I’m here in my hometown of Charlotte, NC with Playing for Others.