What do education and music have in common?
A lot. That is probably why renowned gospel artist Marvin L. Sapp and the Black Alliance for Educational Options decided to team up to increase awareness about the academic choices that parents of young black students have and also produce a moving, spiritual concert that everyone can enjoy.
“The whole gist of the tour is about ensuring that everyone who is anyone in the urban community understand that we don’t have to settle for failing schools, be it charter or public. But we have to stand up and be willing to do what it takes to affect change in the lives of young people who are our future,” the BET award-winning artist said.
Sapp has shown his commitment to education, with the recent opening of his public charter school Grand Rapids Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology Charter School (GREAAT).
The school, not quite in its second year, is an arts-integrated middle and high school of the performing arts located in the West Michigan area. It focuses on courses in instrumental music, vocal music, dance, graphic arts and theater arts. It was the brainchild of his deceased wife, Sapp said.
“My wife was passionate about making sure that young people excel and exceed and succeed in the area of education. She was a college professor herself so her passion was for young people to be the very best that they could possibly be,” Sapp reminisced. “The fact that she grew up in meager surroundings and struggled … but still was able to … become a professor at the college level speaks volumes as to who she was as an individual. Really what it is, is letting young people know that you may come from challenging circumstances but you don’t have to be a victim of your surroundings. Rise above it and be better.”
The gospel artist also sees the bigger picture behind the movement, understanding his own privileged access and how unfair it is to the average individual from a poor community.
“It’s about making sure that the urban individual has the same opportunity as the affluent and suburban individual. I’m able to send my children to the best schools because I can afford to but what about that single, unwed mother in the hood?” Sapp said. “What about that couple trying to make ends meet but has to send their child to a failing school? Shouldn’t they have choices? That’s what it really is all about for me.”
“Our kids are really struggling in schools, all of the statistics point to a dire situation for our children educationally.” Kenneth Campbell, president of the Black Alliance of Educational Options (BAEO), added. “We need to do a lot of things to improve the chances for our kids, but without education we don’t think these things are going to be successful.”