Reflecting the love that all children have for performing arts activities and the rich and historical musical culture of African American people, the Watoto Memphis Performing Arts Academy was formed.

The program uses a variety of Afro-centric performing arts and literary styles, including blues, jazz, gospel, Negro spiritual, contemporary Afro-centric movement, and Black poetic composition and expression, to introduce students to the historical exeriences of their ancestors. Watoto program youth have their unique experience of singing, dancing and performing their way through history, an approach that improves their self image and teaches them to appreciate their cultural heritage. Hundreds of children have had their lives positively impacted by the Watoto programs.

FOUNDING // In 1987, native Memphian Donald O’Conner, musician/songwriter/producer, founded the non profit Memphis Cultural Arts Enrichment Center (MCAEC), umbrella to the Watoto Memphis Performing Arts Academy.

MISSION STATEMENT // Using the performing arts and history to improve the academic and social skills of children and youth.

WHY DOES MEMPHIS NEED THIS PROGRAM? // Students are taught skills that will make them an “asset” to their community rather than a “liability”. Emphasis is placed on the development of self discipline, work ethics, and focused attention. Through the Watoto program, the MCEAC strives to create a community of learners and leaders in which respect and concern for members of the whole community is important.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS // Established organization that has been in existence for the past twenty-five years // Trained hundreds of urban and at-risk youth // Enrolled students have gone to college or some other post graduate studies program // High school graduates have received full college scholarships //Participated in international tours that included Italy, Mexico, and the Bahamas // Conducted performances for the following: Bono of U2, Magic Johnson, Dr. J, Essence Festival, The King & Queen of San Marino, Congressman John Lewis, Lennox Lewis, and Dan Zanes of Playhouse Disney // Created Watoto Memphis chapters in twelve cities // Established partnership with the National Civil Rights Museum // Debuted national tour of the production “ Love Everybody” in tribute to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

CONCERTS, BOOKINGS, AND ENROLLMENT // The Watoto program presents three general public concerts a year in which all students participate. They are held during the months of December, May, and August. Throughout the year smaller ensembles are available for private and special performance bookings. The Watoto program has a year round open enrollment

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