An upcoming virtual event called “Just a Kid from Ypsilanti” will allow young people to chat with professionals who have grown up in the Ypsilanti area, ranging from a real estate agent who also sits on the school board to a singer-songwriter. .
The event, part of a series of Black History Month events organized by Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS), will take place from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. on February 9 on Zoom. Taryn Willis, Events and Logistics Specialist for YCS, will moderate the discussion.
Panelists will be artist Shannon Williams; singer-songwriter Kenyatta Rashon; massage therapist and stylist Kacey Stewart; Chaplain Reverend Wanjiku Kamuyu; YCS estate agent and trustee Jeanice Townsend; entrepreneur Lynwood Powell; health equity advocate Brandon Denson; and restaurateur Gary Johnson.
Townsend had many challenges growing up, including losing her mother at 17 and entering the foster care system. But she says her best friend’s parents have taken her in and encouraged her ever since, representing the community spirit that Ypsilanti is known for.
“Ypsilanti is one of those communities where everyone, regardless of race, creed, color or ethnicity, is considered family,” Townsend said.
She went to college and married, starting her career in banking and moving into real estate in late 2008. She ran for the YCS board in 2020 and lost, but then went on to was appointed director following the opening of a vacancy. She says the board immediately put her to work.
“We do a lot of things behind the scenes to move the district forward,” she says.
The message she hopes to convey to young people at the February 9 event is that they are the authors of their own stories.
“I want to make sure that [the panelists] provide positive role models and demonstrations of why having the opportunity to do something big is so important,” she says. “Don’t let anyone else write the story of who you are.
Rashon says she felt honored to be chosen for the event and says she is “in good company” with the other panelists. She knew from high school that she wanted a career in music and other art forms. Rashon met a musician who was leading a band that needed a lead singer, which launched her career. The men in the band helped guide her in everything from how to lead a band to how to book gigs.
Rashon says she had laid the groundwork for her career, but she got a boost after recently participating in a local program for African-American musicians, the Amplify the stock market.
“It was a great opportunity to network with people who are quite prestigious in the area,” she says. She adds that the album she released on the scholarship was “the best piece of art I’ve released in a long time.”
Rashon says she worked hard in 2021 and expects to see the fruits of that labor in 2022. She hopes to be a role model for local youth.
“I do it to show that it’s possible,” she says. “I want to motivate all young girls, whether they are in Ypsilanti or not, who are thinking about what to do with their lives. They may not feel confident, but I am showing that it can be done. You can do it. To do.”
Anyone interested in the program can find more information and the Zoom link here. The event will also be broadcast as a Facebook Live event on the JEC Facebook page.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and project manager of On the Ypsilanti field. She joined Focus as a news editor in early 2017 and occasionally contributes to other Broadcast Media Group editions. You can reach her at [email protected].