Aisha Hinds ("Detroit 187," "Madea Goes To Jail")
Brandon Smith (Disney's "So Random")
Nadine Ellis ("Let's Stay Together")
Dorian Missick ("Southland," "Haven")
Hollywood’s A-list turned out to support and present at the KITS Film Festival to show their love for the aspiring youth of the evening.
(L-R): KITS Graduate Alexis Hooks, KITS Executive Director and Founder Tige Charity & KITS Graduate Daveion Thompson
Screenplay Writer and Actress, Imani Brewer, who also won Best Actor at the Film Festival for "Diamante Sangria"
Singer, Kenny Lattimore came out to show his support for the youth and KITS program
(L-R): Actors, Omari Hardwick & Derek Luke
(L-R): DCFS Public Affairs Officer, Dominique Robinson, Section Head of Children Services, Elizabeth Howard & DCFS Deputy Director Rhelda Shabazz
photos by Brian W. Carter
Kids in the Spotlight gives struggling youth the opportunity to reach for and become a star.
There are many programs that are helping foster youth and underserved children get a head start in life. These programs, both profit and non-profit, see the need and address it by creating a stepping-stone to help catapult youth to success and beyond. Kids In The Spotlight (KITS) is one of those special programs.
On Sunday, October 28, KITS held its annual “Movies By Kids, For Kids Film Festival and Awards” Ceremony at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, Ca. Youth from foster programs and underserved communities took to the red carpet and star treatment as Hollywood’s best and brightest came out to support their efforts and endeavors.
Tige Charity, Executive Director and Founder of KITS, started the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization after visiting an all-girls group home. The experiences stayed with Charity until she decided that she wanted to get involved and make a change.
“I had a vision, it was late one night, just crying an praying, ‘What can I do,’” said Charity. “I remembered those girls… and started Kids In The Spotlight.
“I decided to give them a platform to tell their stories—their way.”
Along with Co-Director, Sharon Hogg and Executive Producer, T. Faye Griffin, KITS visits foster homes, schools and other agencies throughout the U.S., helping youth to realize their potential. They introduce youth to all the aspects of the film industry and all that is required. The film festival serves as an “Oscar Awards” for youth as they are both congratulated and celebrated by family, friends and celebs.
“Today, it all culminates,” said Charity. “It’s a ten-week program that we do throughout the year at various foster care agencies where we train kids to write, cast and star in their own short films.”
Alexis Hooks and Daveion Thompson are both former students and “graduates” of the KITS program who returned this year to show their support. KITS was a part of an afterschool program at Hooks’ high school. She was apart of the program last year and is now pursuing a degree in Theatre Arts. Thompson was apart of the program in 2010 and credits KITS as giving him a step in the right direction. He’s currently in college and works in film and video editing, skills he picked up working with KITS.
“I’m interested in film, writing films and acting—I think it’s the perfect program,” said Hooks.
“It put me in a position of knowing most industry stuff I probably wouldn’t have learned at that age,” said Thompson. “It was a [really] good program.”
Foster programs such as the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) came to show their support as many of the kids are in or come through these various departments. Imani Brewer was one of many youth who went through the program coming out a screenplay writer and debuting as an actress.
“I was chosen by my house supervisor,” said Brewer. “Diamante Sangria…I’m not going to say too much but I play a girl who is a demi-god…she’s been cursed.”
“It was awesome,” said Brewer. “I plan on doing more of this in my life.”
Many young entrepreneurs also came to support the KITS program like up-and-coming star Kegurah Gregg. Her parents plan to definitely have her in the KITS program in the future. Her father, a music producer, describes her as the next, “Willow Smith,” and has recently released a CD entitled, “All I Want To Do Is Dance to the Beat.”
“It [means] so much to me that I get to have the spotlight with the [KITS] kids,” said Gregg. “I’m so [proud] of them, they did a lot of work, so I want to [congratulate] them for that.”
Renowned R&B singer, Kenny Lattimore, was one of many celebrities who came out to show his support and love for the program. He’s happy to see that under privileged kids are being given a special chance to realize their dreams and goals through KITS.
“I try to support this every year,” said Lattimore. “[KITS] is awesome because it takes inner-city children that may not have had the opportunity to be hands-on with filmmaking and allows them to express their vision, what’s going on in their lives, so their story is told.
“I think that films are about us having the opportunity to tell our stories.”
“These kids, they humble me,” said actress Aisha Hinds. “They reminds what it is to just, sit in a space and receive affirmation and let that fuel you—give you the fire that you need to continue to pursue the things that you were destined and meant to pursue.”
“[KITS] is a powerful event because it makes me reflect on when I was young and there wasn’t a spotlight necessarily shining,” said actor Derek Luke. “What I love about [KITS] is it deals with the potential releasing of a kid and [their] dreams.”
Deputy Director of DCFS, Rhelda Shabazz was elated to see youth that she has worked with through the department doing positive things with their lives.
“I’m not just here as a government official, I’m here because I really care about the kids,” said Shabazz. “When you really look at it, I feel grateful to be here and humbled at the same time.”
“This is great and a great turnout as well,” said Elizabeth Howard of Children Services.
Howard is the Section Head for Group Home and Foster Family Agency Monitoring Section and Foster Home Re-evaluation Unit Children Services. She was impressed by what KITS has done with foster youth and hopes to see more in the future.
“I think it’s a great event—it does a lot for their self-esteem and helpful for them getting to know different people and being exposed to something different,” said Howard.
There were five shorts viewed at the Film Festival: “Diamante Sangria,” ”Deja Love,” “Abnormal Depression,” “Lost Pursuit” and “The Magenta Stone.” All the films were written, casted and showcased five groups of youth. The films ranged from fantasy to horror and everything in between. The Jordan Award, named after the late actress Alicia “Jordan” Mallory, was presented for Best Film, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay/Story and Best Ensemble Cast. The Jordan Awards went to:
Aristotle Rellas- Best Supporting Actor for “The Magenta Stone”
“Diamante Sangria”- Best Ensemble Cast
“Lost Pursuit”- Best Screenplay/Story
Imani Brewer- Best Actor for “Diamante Sangria”
“The Magenta Stone”- Best Film
KITS is a special program that relies, quite frankly, on the kindness of strangers. It’s a completely sponsored program and Charity, Hogg & Griffin work hard to keep the program in motion. These are three committee ladies, doing amazing things and making kids dream come true.
For more information on Kids In The Spotlight, please visit http://kidsinthespotlight.org/