ACT-SO showcasing the best and the brightest
Monteiro, Tonya R
Where can you find the next Benjamin Banneker, Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, or Josephine Baker? At the NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO), which showcases the talents of the best, brightest, and boldest young African-Americans.
This year, nearly 900 students from across the United States competed in 24 categories in the sciences, humanities, and visual and performing arts at the 19th Annual ACT-SO competition, held during the 88th Annual NAACP Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “ACT-SO is a positive program for young people,” said Maria Norales, a silver medalist in playwriting. “At my school, there are a lot of kids who aren’t about anything. But when I went to the nationals, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of other young people who were like me and doing something positive. They had goals and wanted to achieve something. Even though I didn’t win the gold this year, I’m coming back to compete next year.”
ACT-SO is a year-long program that provides mentoring and coaching to students and culminates in a local and national competition. After winning the gold medal at the local competitions, winners proceed to the national competition with the drive and determination of bringing home a gold, silver or bronze for their NAACP branch or youth council. According to ACT-SO creator and Chairman Vernon Jarrett, “The whole point of ACT-SO is to honor many different kinds of academic and artistic achievement. It’s a way for the black community to say that kids who study hard or practice long hours deserve just as much recognition as those who play basketball or make rap records.”
Community involvement is a key component of the ACT-SO program with successful adult role models serving as coaches, judges and committee members. According to Frank Frazier, a 1996 and 1997 ACT-SO judge, “ACT-SO helps dispel the many negative perceptions of Mrican-American young people. In fact, it brings out a good positive image. Last year,” he said, “A young brother entered and didn’t win. He was discouraged and felt rejected. I told him not to give up and compete next year. He did just that and won this year at Nationals. I enjoy judging and seeing the remarkable talent of African-American men and women.”
In addition to the two-days of actual competition at the National Competition, participants spend time practicing for the ACT-SO dance troupe and choir and attending workshops and college tours. The culmination of their hard work was capped off with the taping of the 19th Annual ACT-SO Awards Ceremony hosted by Living Singles’ T.C. Carson and In the Heat of Night’s Crystal Fox.
“Each year I am more amazed by the level of commitment and talent displayed by our young people,” said Rhonda K. Wilson, National ACT-SO Director. “We must continue to provide them with the resources they need to succeed, encourage them to reach for new heights, and flex their most powerful muscle which is their mind.” Next year, ACT-SO will celebrate its 20th Anniversary at the NAACP Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. In January, ACT-SO will kick off the “ACT-SO in Atlanta” campaign. For more information contact the National ACTSO office at (410) 358-8900.
Copyright Crisis Publishing Company, Incorporated Oct 1997
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