More than eighty people filled the Old Merc Pizza in McArthur on Friday night February 3 for the Hope is Alive 9! open mic. The crowd was treated to an uplifting evening of song, dance, poetry, testimony, and superb drumming.
The Hope is Alive! open mics are sponsored by Stand Against Stigma, a program of the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency. The theme of Hope is Alive! is creative expression and the arts help people to work through their struggles and aid in recovery. The program addresses issues such as depression, substance abuse, suicide, anxiety disorders, childhood trauma, etc.
Marc Dadigan, a community education specialist for the County, helped to organize and emcee the event. County Supervisor Mary Rickert was present and spoke briefly about her past work with the National Association for Mental Ilness (NAMI).
By 6 p.m. the pizza parlor was full and over a dozen people had signed up to perform. Dadigan welcomed everyone and introduced the first performer Alex Colvin, who recited a short poem about the power of prayer and sang a song written for the event entitled Hope is Alive. (See selected videos by various performers).
Next, a talented singer/songwriter from Redding, Tyson, came up and sang some original songs.
After Tyson’s soul-stirring performance, social worker Heather Gold, came to the mic and shared a poignant story of how her ancestors had come to America as refugees from the pograms in Eastern Europe to start of new life. Gold spoke of how she had benefited from and treasured the religious diversity in our country. She also shared about coping with the difficulties of a brain tumor and the importance of overcoming stigmas.
Following that, local musicians Stu Stoore, Ginny Dye, and Don Smith performed a variety of old time tunes, blues, and bluegrass music. Don Smith hosts a community jam session every other Friday at the Old Merc for local musicians. As well as performing, Stoore also provided and managed the sound system for the evening.
Next came folk-rock musician George Whitfield from Burney. George used to play in the Burney Basin Band with Cliff Bobo and Dave Wicks. In addition to playing an original tune he had never performed before, George shared his hope for peace and brought back a lot of memories singing the old 60’s songs “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” by Peter, Paul, and Mary and “Vietnam Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish.
Next, Kimberly Michelle Davis lit up the hall with a wonderful rendition of “Naughty” from the Broadway musical Matilda. Kimberly told us that she may be moving to Utah soon. Her talented appearances and contribution to the community will be much missed.
Next we were treated to some poetry by Gail Pittman and then a rendition of Ricky Nelson’s “I was a Fool in Love.” by Phil Dekker accompanied on the violin by Ginny Dye.
After that, Verena Compton from Round Mountain came forward to perform a beautiful old Germanic poetic prayer in German and English.
After her prayer, she introduced Skip Holden and Randy Compton and they delighted and energized the crowd with an awesome drum session.
The first piece was dedicated to Tom and Mary Vestal who recently passed away.
As the drumming receded, rap and rhythm and blues artist Drake Smith came up to the mic to share three amazing pieces moving from song, to song and dance, to break dancing.
One of the unexpected treats of the evening was performance by children. The first was a duet by Megan and her daughter Bailey singing “You Had a Bad Day.”
The second was Kaydance Inez Hall who got up and did a great job bravely singing “This is My Fight Song.”
And that was not all. Jeff McNeil delighted the audience with his authentic Western ballads. Jeff has been a trail guide in the High Sierras. He is an excellent horseman, a blacksmith, and metalwork artist. When he sings, he sings from the heart because he lives the life.
Matt Erlich who runs a local recording studio also shared some songs.
Toward the end of the program, Dadigan asked Diane Lahey to come forward to share. Lahey is one of the early members of Brave Faces, people who share their stories of hope and recovery to provide a better understanding of the challenges of mental illness.
Diane talked about learning to love herself in spite of a difficult childhood, battles with mental illness, and abuse.
Telling how a doctor had taken advantage of her innocence and trust and abused her, Dee made a point about “not knowing what we don’t know.”
If one is unloved as a child and told that he or she worthless and unwanted, it wounds the psyche. If one is abused and victimized by a person in authority, it causes confusion and guilt.
In order to love ourselves and others we need to forgive ourselves and others. To do that it helps to stop judging ourselves for not knowing what we did not know.
“I will not judge you for not knowing what you did not know.” Lahey said “Please do not judge me for not knowing what I did not know.”
Following Lahey’s talk, Tamara Lopez read three poems and the entertainment ended with Michael Bennett from Circle of Friends singing a love song.
Three and half hours of entertainment and sharing. People made new friends and visited with old. Barriers had been broken down and joy was in the air, because when creativity flows in community, Hope is Alive!