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State Theatre hosts Black History Month Talent Show

Destiny+J.+B.+Hernandez%2C+who+sings+professionally+under+the+name+Destiny+LaVibe%2C+performed+at+the+State+Theatre+of+Ithaca+Feb.+16.
Lorien Tyne
Destiny J. B. Hernandez, who sings professionally under the name Destiny LaVibe, performed at the State Theatre of Ithaca Feb. 16.

A joyful, energetic aura emanated from Ithaca’s State Theatre the evening of Feb. 16, as performers of all ages took the stage for the 2024 Black History Month Talent Show. 

About 200 community members, including many families, watched the show; some of whom danced and sang along through the night. The annual event is organized by the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC), which presented talent from its youth, teen and adult programs. 

GIAC groups that performed included a poem from a senior participant; GIAC preeteens, who presented the “Black facts” in between performances; and a poem and several dances from the youth groups.

Before the performances started, GIAC Director Leslyn McBean-Clairborne gave the opening remarks in the form of a piece called, “What is Black History?” 

“Black history is our legacy of triumph over fear,” McBean-Clairborne said in her speech. “It is every single experience of our history. Black history is the story of you and me.” 

She mentioned historic figures like former president Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., activist Ruby Bridges and actor Ruby Dee. Her speech also mentioned the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Black Holocaust Museum, the Tuskegee Airmen and Cheyney University, in recognition of their places in Black history. 

Destiny J.B. Hernandez, deputy director at GIAC, also sings professionally by the stage name Destiny La Vibe. She said that taking the stage was a great way to give back to the community as a leader in the organization, but also as someone who loves Ithaca and wanted to share her gift.

“The purpose [of the event] is to really reflect on Black history, especially in America, and the impacts that it has on current times,” Hernandez said. “The way we are doing that is by using performing arts. … It’s also just a great way to come together and celebrate no matter what your background is. Everyone that was here was here to celebrate Black history.”

In addition to the celebration of Black History Month, the talent show theme was about voter rights. GIAC staff worked a table with voter registration forms for residents and some of the “Black facts” read by the GIAC youth related to voting rights. Each year, the theme serves as a way to educate attendees about Black history and current issues facing the Black community, in addition to entertaining them with performances. 

Brandon Blas, coordinator for the GIAC Youth Program, said GIAC chose the theme because of the upcoming 2024 presidential election. However, he said his main role was helping to plan and organize the performances by the youth groups. 

GIAC is a nonprofit and a department of the city, which Blas said is why donations are so important to its programming. 

“Any donations really help to keep the fees low for the kids,” Blas said. “Childcare is a big expense. I think we have some of the lowest fees in the county. … I’m not sure what these funds are allocated for specifically, but it’s all going back into programming for the kids and the community.”

He said the annual talent show used to be held in-house at the Community Center in Ithaca but in 2022 and 2021, it was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The show was held previously at Ithaca College in 2023 and at Ithaca High School in other years. As its audience grew, Blas said GIAC looked for a larger venue to host the show and this was the first year it was held in the State Theatre.

Entertainers from the community also participated, including SingTrece, G-Quan Booker and the Global Creative Family, the Dorothy Cotton Singers, the Cornell Majorettes, Phat Flow Factory, Destiny La Vibe and Mbusi.

SingTrece was the first performer to take the stage. She has been participating in GIAC events since 2010 and has performed at several iterations of the talent show. 

“I absolutely enjoyed the GIAC Annual Black History Month Talent Show,” SingTrece said. “Being able to be here is a real blessing and knowing that it’s changing people’s lives.” 

Some of the performers also used the opportunity to advertise upcoming music releases like G-Quan Booker, entertainer and director of the Global Creative Family — a group he runs through the Southside Community Center. Booker performed a song from his upcoming album, G-Quantum, that will be released Feb. 22. He also appeared on stage for dances with the youth in GCF. 

“My role for this talent show specifically was being able to bring my kiddos from GCF, to showcase the different ages, different ethnicities and the collaboration of different music and genres,” Booker said. 

Mbusi, who grew up in Ithaca participating in GIAC programs, said it feels good being able to give back and share his talent with the community. 

“Even as everyone is walking out, everyone is hugging each other, loving each other,” Mbusi said. “I feel blessed.” 

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Lorien Tyne, Former News Editor
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