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Moving Mountains Art Gala 15th Anniversary

“Exposure to the arts opens up the world. You don't have to pursue a career in the arts, — having your eyes open up to what the arts can provide — people start thinking differently. 

-Micheal Raymond James

Photos By @stefanbunbury

The Moving Mountains Art Gala took place on Tuesday, June 11th in Brooklyn, NYC, bringing together a mix of VIPs from the entertainment, sports, and business industries to support youth empowerment through arts education in the inner city. The gala also served as a platform to honor NBA legend Charles Oakley for his contributions both on and off the court.

Among the notable personalities in attendance were actor, philanthropist, Jamie Hector, known for his roles in hit TV shows “The Wire” and “Bosch”, Angela Yee, a Brooklyn native and renowned radio host, Talib Kweli, a respected rapper and music producer, and John Starks, another NBA legend. The event was hosted at BAM and marked the 15th annual Moving Mountains Art Gala, highlighting the organization's commitment to providing opportunities for youth to develop their skills and talents in the arts.

Jamie Hector, the founder of Moving Mountains (founded in 2007), and a prominent actor, shared his vision for empowering inner city youth through arts education. As a first generation Haitian American, Hector emphasized the importance of literacy and the role that the arts play in shaping young minds. He recalled his own journey, with the support of his family, he danced, played the tenor saxophone and joined a theater company at 16 that changed his life. 

”It's not just about talent, it's about not giving up, and dedication. And also the lessons that we learn from our parents. — As long as I was safe and as long as I was doing what I desired, she [his mother] was all for it.” 

-Jamie Hector

Hector's commitment to literacy led him to partner with Scholastics to write children's books, including the "Chloe Wonders" box set that explores culture and addresses common questions children have. Through Moving Mountains, students have access to auditions, SAG-AFTRA and opportunities in the entertainment industry, thanks to the organization's relationships with casting directors, agents, and record labels. 

Joining Hector in supporting youth empowerment through the arts was host for the event Angela Yee, Mona Scott Young, and Michael Raymond James, all of whom have been actively involved in community programs and initiatives. Yee, host and creator of Way Up With Yee, highlighted the importance of arts programs for young people, reflecting on her origin story without such opportunities and emphasizing the impact they can have in shaping future success.

“These kids with their acting abilities and being able to get on stage, and even work behind the scenes is really going to be helpful for later on in life.”

-Angela Yee

Yee gave the opportunity for some of the Moving Mountain participants to host her annual event, Yee Day! A celebration in Brooklyn, Yee Day, is free to the public, providing community activities, giveaways, live musical performances, games, and special surprise guests. Another big accomplishment for Yee will be her real estate project in Detroit. She is creating a large affordable housing opportunity for unserved individuals.

For Mona Scott Young, media, music and production mogul, the arts provide a pathway for youth to explore their creativity and develop essential skills that can guide them through life. Scott Young shared the resilience she learned from her upbringing, where her mother overcame obstacles without the benefit of education, inspiring her to create programs that empower young talent like Moving Mountains.

“The arts allow you to transport yourself into another world. Pouring in and feeding the creativity in the youth is of the utmost importance.” She gleams while speaking about the program because she was able to witness how consistent they were, pushing themselves, being great in their respective disciplines then going on to achieve even greater feats. 

In her experience, Mona witnessed how children use youth programs as a means to eat when school is not in session, to connect to their community and to have a safe place to be. During her time working in a program in Harlem as a youth counselor she was able to empathize with those children and vow to continue making a difference and pushing for youth centered opportunities. 

Charles Oakley, the evening's honoree, emphasized the role of art in his early career and in his philanthropic efforts to support the youth in Alabama, Cleveland, and Virginia. Alongside Moving Mountains, Oakley Foundation, and John Starks, Oakley has been instrumental in providing opportunities for young people to explore their artistic talents and aspirations.

Siddiq Saunderson, a former participant in Moving Mountains, shared his success story in the entertainment industry, citing the mentorship and guidance he received from Hector as instrumental in his journey. Saunderson underscored the importance of authenticity in acting and the need to tap into a character's psyche to deliver a compelling performance. He spoke on roles in Hulu's Wu-Tung playing the role of the charismatic Ghostface Killah, “Answer” that he is hoping to go to festivals, “Late Night Creep”, “Kemba" on BET plus and hints at another show.

Saunderson attended Carnegie Mellon University where he trained and he prides himself on the authenticity of his portrayals, studying each role, tapping into the character's psyche. When ask what separates a good actor from a great one, his response was, “ I think it’s the face, I think it’s the eyes but I think beyond all of that – it’s the intention and it’s about again, knowing the characters psyche – knowing what they really are after at any given point and playing that truthfully.” 

As board members and supporters of Moving Mountains, Michael Raymond James and other VIPs stressed the transformative power of the arts in opening up new opportunities and perspectives for young people. James, who grew up in Detroit, expressed his pride in being part of an organization like Moving Mountains that provides access to the arts for underserved communities. “ I wish I had a Moving Mountains” James exclaims.

The Moving Mountains Art Gala served as a testament to the impact of arts education in empowering youth and building a community of mentorship and support for the next generation of artists and creators. Through programs like Moving Mountains, young people are given the tools and resources to pursue their passions and dreams in the arts, setting the stage for a brighter future filled with possibilities and opportunities for success.

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