Scores of people were uplifted and entertained by ten performers at the Hope is Alive! open mic at Ol’ Merc Pizza in McArthur on Friday night May 18.
Chuck Darwin Hepburn and Stu Stoore playing the blues
The evening performances included songs, spoken word, poetry, and stand up comedy. Performers included Alex Colvin, Stu Stoore, Chuck Darwin Hepburn, Kimberly Davis, spoken word artist Angel, a stand-up comedian, Michael Bennett, Phil Dekker, George Whitfield, and a young woman poet who rose from the audience at the end to read.
Kimberly Davis sings a powerful song
Chuck Darwin Hepburn, not only played and sang on the guitar. He also provided innovative improvisation on his saxophone to accompany several other performers. Mr. Hepburn recently moved to Bieber.
Angel doing spoken word
As well as performing a variety of tunes on guitar and ukulele, Stu Stoore also did an excellent job of managing the sound system.
George Whitfield sings Dylan
Amy Sturgeon explains about Suicide Prevention
Hope is Alive! open mics celebrate the power of the creative arts to uplift, comfort and heal people in times of mental or emotional crisis. The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Marc Dadigan. The program was sponsored by Stand Against Stigma funded by the Mental Health Services Act. Mid-program, Amy Sturgeon, a community education specialist in suicide prevention gave a short talk. Toward the end of the program Carrie Jo Diamond, director of Stand Against Stigma also spoke about the activities of Intermountain Mental Health Week.
Carrie Jo Diamond from Stand Against Stigma talks about Intermountain Mental Health Week
After the program, several musicians stayed to jam together.
About 50 people gathered at Billy’s Roadside Café in Montgomery Creek on Friday evening October 6 to hear poets and musicians share a message of hope and inspiration.
The program was sponsored by Stand Against Stigma, funded by Shasta County Health and Human Services to address issues associated with mental illness and to provide suicide prevention services. The Hope is Alive! open mics celebrate the theme of healing through performance arts. The gathering in Montgomery Creek was the fourth Hope is Alive open mic in the Intermountain Area and the 12th in Shasta County at large.
Marc Dadigan, community education specialist for the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency, emceed the event. The evening performances began with a performance by Randy and Verena Compton followed by the talented Billy Riggins who share some of his original rap music.
Billy Riggins uplifts the audience with his original poetic rap
Mental illness is often associated with substance abuse.
Larry Harris from Redding shares several poignant poems
Poet Larry Harris from Redding shared three poems of personal experience describing the struggles and victory that his family experienced through their daughter’s bout with mental illness. It was a tale of hope prevailing over despair.
After a period of substance abuse resulting in mental breakdown, his daughter successfully went through therapy and recovery and now leads a successful happy life as an actress.
In one particularly poignant poem, Harris talked about his daughter going to a Simon and Garfunkle concert in San Francisco on her own after rehab. Harris shared the emotion a parent goes through as he experiences the restoration of trust, letting go and watching his child emerge as a happy independent young woman.
Michael Bennett and Kimberly Michelle Davis from the Circle of Friends in Burney both sang songs. Bennett charmed people with an a capella rendering of Mac Davis “Oh Lord it’s Hard to be Humble.” Ms. Davis once again delighted the audience as she sang Broadway show tunes in her lovely soprano voice.
A young lady who had traveled two hours to attend got up and recited a short poem.
A highlight of the evening was the personal testimony of David Martinez, a spokesman for Stand Against Stigma’s Brave Faces who has suffered from depression, anxiety and PTSD. Mr. Martinez is a member of the Wintu tribe. He has been a biker, a cowboy and an EMT for the fire department. He has also worked in Redding as a substance abuse counselor. After sharing his story, Martinez shared two popular songs, “Pancho and Lefty,” and “City of New Orleans”.
A testimony and two songs from an elder
Singer-songwriter Mauro livened things up with several of his original songs.
Mauro sings some soul stirring originals
Next, the audience was treated to a performance of Native American Rap by Louis Gustafson and his family. As well as singing, Gustafson also plays bass and performs with Pit Crew. He also is a wonderful drummer who performed at the 2015 Burney Basin Days with the Pit River Nation Drum Group.
Louis Gustafson and his family performing Native American rap
The evening was closed out by Alex Colvin and George Whitfield. Colvin opened with a poem “In This World of Heart and Mind” expressing the healing power of love and then sang “Live for Others.” Alex and George then sang “Ghost Riders in the Sky” together.
Before singing two songs, “Sounds of Silence” and “Vietnam Song.” George talked about the seriousness of mental illness and suicide plaguing our country. Seventeen veterans die every day from suicide.
“Don’t let stigma stand in your way,” Whitman said, “If you feel like your life is going to pieces, reach out for help.”
The 12th Hope Is Alive! Open Mic Night will be held 6-8 p.m. Friday, October 6, 2017 at Billy’s Roadside Café, 30356 State Highway, 299 East, Montgomery Creek. Songwriters, musicians, poets, spoken word artists, storytellers, and dancers are welcome to come share their talent. Performers are encouraged to reserve a spot in advance by contacting Carrie Jo Diamond at 229-8484 or email@example.com.
Stu Stoore, Ginny Dye, and Don Smith at Hope is Alive! 9 in McArthur
This is the fourth Hope Is Alive! to be held in the Intermountain area of the county.
Hope Is Alive! was founded in September 2014. The purpose has been to celebrate the healing power of art, music, and poetry and to raise awareness about mental health struggles, substance use disorders, and suicide loss.
Burney International Folk Dancers at Hope is Alive! 4 in Burney
Hope Is Alive! open mic nights have been held at locations throughout Shasta County. Nearly 130 performers, including dancers, spoken word artists, rappers and musicians have participated.
Billy Riggins and Lewis Gustafson at Hope is Alive! 4 in Burney
For more information about Stand Against Stigma and Hope Is Alive! Open Mic Nights, visit www. Standagainststigma.com or Hope is Alive! 12 on Facebook.
Articles on past Hope is Alive! open mics in the Burney, Montgomery Creek, and McArthur:
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.
Hope is Alive 9! at Old Merc Pizza
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).
County Supervisor Mary Rickert commends the event and speaks briefly about 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.
Singer songwriter Tyson sings some original songs
Heather Gold gave a moving testimony about her family and personal history
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.
Stu Stoore, Ginny Dye, and Don Smith
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.
George Whitfield sings an original song
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.
Kimberly Michelle Davis captivates the crowd with her performance of Naughty
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.
Phil Dekker with Ginny Dye
Verena Compton recites an Old German prayer in German and English
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.
Skip Holden and drummers perform a drum song dedicated to Tom and Marie Vestal
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.
Drake Smith energized and inspired the audience with song and dance
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.
Jeff McNeil singing wonderful country and western songs
Matt Erlich who runs a local recording studio also shared some songs.
Matt Erich played some foot-tapping tunes
Diane Lahey spoke about overcoming mental illenss and past abuse
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.
Tamara Lopez read three poems
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!
More than eighty people filled Old Merc Pizza in McArthur Friday evening to enjoy three hours of performance and sharing by more that a dozen artists. The evening’s offerings included poetry, song, dance, drumming, Broadway musical, as well as inspirational messages from participants in Stand Against Stigma and Brave Faces.
So much talent! Such diversity! Linda and I were unable to capture all of the dozens of acts, but this playlist has videos will give you a taste of some of the performances.
I hope you enjoy.
Thanks to Marc Dadigan from Stand Against Stigma for organizing the event, Old Merc for hosting, Stu Stoore for and excellent job with the sound, and all those who came to make this a wonderful evening.
Hope is Alive!
PS. There are 12 videos in the playlist. Click on the triple bar in the upper left-hand corner to see a menu listing all of the individual titles.