Our voices fill the air, fill the air.
When the neighbors need our help.
If you pave our streets, we'll feel relief.
The neighbors will say SWELL!
This is the chorus of 12th Avenue Blues, and the words of elementary aged children who are part of the East Lake Expression Engine. These children hope to make their 12th Avenue Blues "yesterday's news" and may sound like political activists, but they certainly don't look the part.
While exploring and learning music this summer, 60 elementary aged students from the East Lake community composed a number of original pieces. They created a wide variety of songs, including poetic pieces, and selections with a gospel message. One song gave these young musicians a voice and a place to work together as members of the community and seek change in their neighborhood.
12th Avenue Blues calls for action from our city leaders to fix a particular, poorly paved street in East Lake.
While the young musicians are rallying together to improve the pot holes in their street, their mentors know the bumps in the road these children face are far bigger. East Lake is a community where children face poverty, crime, racism, domestic violence, drugs, gangs and struggling schools as a part of their everyday lives.
Instead of throwing their hands up in defeat, young adults are investing in the lives of these children with the hope that those struggles will also become "yesterday's news."
The East Lake Expression Engine is a music project that is part of the New City Fellowship summer tutoring and mentoring program. As part of the program the students participated in daily music classes. Their classes included singing in a choir, participating in a bucket band, musicianship and instrumental exploration.
The ELEE co-founders, Evelyn Petcher, Libby O'Neil and Michael Kendal, began the pilot program this summer based on inspiration found in the El Sistema movement. The idea is that music can be used as an effective avenue to develop creativity, and problem solving skills in children while also developing a sense of community.
The founders designed the program as an extension of the church's tutoring and mentoring program. The tutoring program offers a safe and holistic environment where children from the neighborhood of East Lake can grow academically, spiritually and emotionally through gospel centered relationships. The church members and tutors believe the gospel is where true change is found. They want to see it empower the individual children of East Lake and through them bring change to their community.
The efforts this summer may or may not bring change to the pavement on 12th Avenue, but the investment of the staff and leaders of the Expression Engine and the ELECT tutoring program can't help but bring change to the lives of these children.
More About the East Lake Expression Engine:
The East Lake Expression Engine is part of Camp ELECT. ELECT (East Lake Every Child Taught) is a summer tutoring program run by New City Fellowship in partnership with the YMCA of Chattanooga and made possible by a grant from the United Way.
You can find the East Lake Expression Engine on Facebook here.
- Photo2 by Kelly Lacy, Fancy Rhino