Eleven-year-old Kevin Leon Turner, known as "Little Papa Jazz," treated the audience at "Family Awareness Day" Saturday to a saxophone rendition of "Misty" that seemed to make worthwhile their two-hour stay under a merciless sun in Anacostia Park.
Three other 11-year-olds--Leticia Moore, Lakisha Young and Victoria Gross--dressed in black-and-white suspendered pants, sailor hats and gloves, popped their way through the popular tune "Planet Rock."
Children came from all over the Washington area to demonstrate their talents, to learn about fire safety and security from the D.C. fire and police departments and to watch a helicopter air show provided by the police department.
"Family Awareness Day" was the brainchild of Iola Washington, founder of the Little People of Awareness, a neighborhood club of children 15 and younger that she started because "there were so many children hanging around my house with nothing to do," she said.
The event was held to benefit the "Gifted and Talented Scholarship Fund from A to Z," Washington's effort to help pay children's training in the performing arts, as well as the Southeast Neighborhood House, a nonprofit social services agency, and her own group.
"We are here to make sure the children are aware. Not only of what is going on in the streets, but to make them aware of themselves and their talents," Washington said.
Washington said the organization has "programs for children with all talents: drawing, singing, drama." She said any money they earn from their performances "goes directly to them for what they need, school supplies, clothes, transportation . . . . "
Last year, she and her group of 33 children performed musical dramas on fire safety, education, and love for one another, in local schools and on television. They recently became volunteer spokespersons for the D.C. Fire Department's fire safety program, and will be shown on the department's safety poster.
Washington sought participants in Saturday's extended talent show through the D.C. public schools. As a result of a letter sent by Deputy Superintendent Andrew Jenkins III to school principals, she signed up more than 300. About 18 performance groups showed up, but absences had more to do with the vacation season than lack of interest, Washington said.
"Family Awareness Day was designed to let parents know what their children are doing, and what they are capable of doing," Washington said. "We've gotten tremendous response from parents."
"We teamed up with the Southeast Neighborhood House, for this event," Washington said, because her group does not have nonprofit status to raise funds.
"It's obvious that we didn't make any money from the event," Washington said the next day, "but the closeness, the togetherness of the parents and children, was worth all the effort. This is a start."