Lead Artist Name: Navasha Daya
Additional Artists/Roles: Moziah Saleem (drum instructor)
Project Name: Cherry Hill Intergenerational Choir and Drum ensemble
Project Description: Led by internationally recognized singer, songwriter and activist Navasha Daya, the Youth Resiliency Institute and the Cherry Hill Homes Community will form the Cherry Hill Intergenerational Choir. The choir will team up with visual artists Vaquea Singletary and Jackie Mayo in the Cherry Hill community along with Grammy Award winning percussionist Moziah Saleem to create a touring performance and visual artist hybrid project comprised of Cherry Hill voices of all ages.
Location: Cherry Hill
Artist Social Media: @navashadaya
Artist Website: www.navashadaya.com
Could you tell us a little about yourself and your practice? I am a professional singer, songwriter, producer, performing arts curator, certified holistic wellness practitioner, and spiritual and cultural arts activist. Since childhood I have been inspired and encourage to use my voice and talent to uplift others and inspire change. As a performing artist, I have performed all over the globe sharing the stage with artists such as South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo, Japanese pianist Hajime Yoshizawa, and American artists such as Joan Baez, India Arie, Michael Franti of Spearhead, and Roberta Flack, just to name a few. In addition to my solo career as an indie-soul artist, I toured for two years as a guest artist, singing with the Grammy Award winning all female a capella group, “Sweet Honey In The Rock.”
As an arts educator and cultural arts activist, I have taught voice and music to elementary, middle and high school aged children and youth for over 17 years, integrating character development, multiculturalism, and musicianship skills in my classes. Steadfast to my dedication to the community, in 2010 along with educator/musician/organizer, Fanon Hill and two youth mentees, I cofounded the Youth Resiliency Institute (YRI), a social benefit organization that is dedicated to inspiring realization of the authentic self in children, youth and young adults in Baltimore, Maryland.
How did you get involved with Cherry Hill and how did this project come about? Through the Youth Resiliency Institute (YRI), I have been offering programming in Cherry Hill Homes since 2010. Cherry Hill is one of the most segregated and disinvested communities of Baltimore, where 69 percent of households make below the U.S. average, and the median income is $15,690, below the current national poverty threshold for a household of two. YRI partnered with community champion, Ms. Shirley Foulks, who we affectionately call Mama Shirley, to provide technical support, programming and artistic opportunities to families living in Cherry Hill Homes.
While traditional programming designed to help poor families has tended to be oriented exclusively towards children, YRI offers intergenerational arts project to bring the family and community together. One of the goals of YRI is to make sure that each member of the community is heard and is properly giving the gifts that they have brought to this world. The Cherry Hill Intergenerational Choir and Drum ensemble provides an opportunity for Cherry Hill community members to use their artistry to share pride they have about their community.
What was the inspiration behind your design? Cherry Hill is a very resilient community, so we chose artistic pieces and themes that represented the source of their resiliency like – courage, love, unity, family and culture as the subjects of the work. The mural in Cherry Hill painted by Tom Miller on the side of the Cherry Hill library speaks to the inspiration of families creating art together.
Could you describe your process for creating the work? When creating, I delve deeply into the personality of the given group I am honored to work with. I then share my ideas and create based upon the feedback, innate skills and natural abilities of the group.
Now that the project is underway, how has the response been from the community and passersby? The community is very excited about the project. Community members often stop by to watch us create and rehearse. Our project has also ignited a renewed since of community pride.
How has the project influenced your practice? The project is very rewarding and has assisted me in establishing an apprenticeship of sorts for the participants. Participants have been able to perform and share their art around the city and get feedback about their art. The project has also provided me with creative fuel for my next professional recording project in which I plan on including many of the participants.
What’s next for you? The Youth Resiliency Institute is working on organizing a 2017 summer arts festival in Cherry Hill. I am presently recruiting artists of different mediums living in the Cherry Hill community to participate in the festival.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists who are interested in entering the field of public and community arts? Community arts work takes much flexibility and patience. It is important to establish trust and authentic relationships prior to beginning your project. Witnessing the transformation of participants and the creation of art in one’s immediate community is amazing.