By Jon Winkler
“RECOGNIZE! CONFIDE! PREVENT SUICIDE!”
That was the mission statement of this year’s Dance 4 Peace event at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Friday. The 24th event, hosted by the Lowell Community Health Center’s Teen BLOCK program, showcased local youth not only dancing but also singing and reading national statistics on suicide. Dance 4 Peace focuses on violence prevention with a different theme tying into that every year, with this year’s theme being suicide prevention.
Ruth Ogembo, program manager for the Health Center, said before the show that the focus involved young people coming together to talk about violence and issues that impact young people.
Ogembo noted that the event also raises money for a scholarship dedicated to the memory of Quoc Le, a former member of the Teen BLOCK program who was stabbed to death in Boston in 2001 at the age of 19. The scholarship is awarded every year to a teen going to college.
“We also raise money to support the Teen BLOCK programs,” she added. “Our future development programs that are not funded by our usual funders, like having a retreat and giving young people opportunities to get to have hands-on activities that they may not have access to.”
Ogembo described the art of dance as something to unify young people through one beloved form of expression. She noted how the participants get together and plan their routines on their own.
“Everyone loves to dance,” she said. “Having that opportunity to be entertained, but also to learn at the end. Young people who come together are very talented. We have very artistic young people who exhibit their talents onstage every year. It’s their opportunity to show what they can do and the talents they have. It’s a great bonding experience.”
Dance 4 Peace brings together kids with all levels of experience. Jose Trinidad- Parlee Jr. and Jizaih Booker, two of the emcees for the night, were participating in their third and second Dance 4 Peace event, respectively.
“It’s an event that gets the whole community together under one message,” Booker said.
“I fell in love with it and wanted to help out my community,” Trinidad- Parlee Jr. said. “It’s good to spread messages of positivity everywhere.”