Haven Kids Rock, an afterschool program at Mott Haven Academy, has teamed with an entertainment company to produce a musical based on the real-life experiences of the school’s students: “Unstoppable, Tales from the Schoolyard.”
The musical, performed at the Sheen Center in Manhattan on Nov. 5 and 6 and written four years ago by students in the program, explores the issues many South Bronx kids face through the lens of music.
From issues of civil unrest, looming deportation, living in homeless shelters and gun violence to navigating young love, relationships and academics—this original musical exhibited the performers’ realities.
“If you lower the bar for kids who have challenging lives, you forever limit their potential,” said Founder of Haven Kids Rock Nefertiti Jones. “We are raising the bar for our kids and they are rising.”
Haven Kids Rock is an arts program aimed at assisting children in foster care and the child welfare system in the South Bronx. Program directors and student participants developed “Unstoppable” as an original work in 2017.
The musical came to life on a stage not far from Broadway – at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, produced with the help of Dolphin Entertainment. More than 40 students participated, having been selected through an audition requiring singing and dancing.
Nerfertiti Jones has been with Haven Kids Rock for 13 years. She feels having this program at Mott Haven Academy is important in order to give an outlet to students going through traumatic and hard experiences.
“I grew up in Alphabet City during the ‘70s and ‘80s when it was considered one of the most dangerous places in NYC,” Jones said. “Music saved my life. I want to share my gifts with these kids.”
Haven Kids Rock offers other programs for those not interested in acting. Students can choose from private voice lessons, participating in a choir, and, before COVID-19 prevented it, breakdancing classes.
Jones wants these students to gain pride for themselves and gain community and family with one another.
“I think the arts are important in any school but you can really see the impact of the arts in underserved communities,” Jones said.
“Music, dance and acting can be a vehicle for self expression for our kids who often face seemingly insurmountable challenges,” she added.