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Utopian Academy For The Arts| Georgia Approved Charter Middle School » Student Actors, Culinary Arts Students Take Center Stage At Black History Event

Student Actors, Culinary Arts Students Take Center Stage At Black History Event


Utopian Academy for the Arts will host a special Black History Month Dinner Theater performance tonight in Forest Park that will highlight the talents of culinary arts and creative writing students.
The program, “A Letter To My Young Brothers and Sisters,” will feature original essays on heroes and historic moments in black history that link to present day issues facing African-Americans. It will be the second major production this year for Utopian’s budding actors, film editors, singers, dancers, and chefs.
Dinner and entertainment begin at 6 p.m. at 4295 Hendrix Drive. Admission is $15 at the door for adults and children 11 and up. Children 10 and under are $5.
“Everything for the evening will be created by our scholars, from the food that is being cooked to the monologues being performed on stage,” said Ebonne Craft, director of Fine Arts at Utopian Academy and executive producer of the program. “We will have monologues about slavery, the civil rights struggle, the Birmingham church bombing, bullying, and the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Craft said the monologues were assigned as a class project that combined lessons taught in social studies and language arts. The scholars with the best essays were chosen to appear in the Black History Month program.
“Writing the monologues challenged students to look at current events and historical events and to give their viewpoints,” Craft said.
The Black History Month program will feature performances from every artistic discipline taught at Utopian. Dance students will leap across center stage in a moving routine to “Glory.” Choral students will entertain the audience with two songs, including an ode to runaway slaves. Arts students created a mural that will set the scene for the production. Culinary arts students are preparing a menu of delicacies.
“This will be our first show involving sixth graders,” Craft said. “We will have a few on stage performing and some others helping behind the scenes moving props, working as ushers, and assisting with the videotaping of the event.”
Eighth grader Nia Parham will serve as emcee of the dinner theater.
Craft said she was “impressed” with the quality of the monologues and the confident voices that students are developing as they hone their creative writing skills. She believes that the evening will spark dialogue between scholars and parents about race issues still impacting the country.
“Parents should come and see the program because it will give them a new outlook on what students think about social issues,” said Erica Thomas, the program’s musical director. “I think that a lot of parents will be surprised by the words and ideas that their students will be portraying, and that it all was created by our scholars.”

  • I have to say that the Black History Program that was put together by the staff and the performance from the kids was amazing. Seeing the scholars showcase their talents was so amazing. The culinary arts did and outstanding job also. Job well done too all who was involved in putting the program together.

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August 31, 2015August 31, 2015
RIVERDALE - When 300 students at Utopian Academy for the Arts reported to classes last week, there was no sign on the lawn letting them know that they had reached the right place. The name of the school had been removed by order of the City of Riverdale.This week the sign is still bare.The City of Riverdale has prohibited Utopian from using its school sign to welcome visitors or identify the building until administrators secure a business license. School officials, however, maintain that Utopian is a public school so a business license is not necessary. The debate has caused the school to accrue fines in the hundreds of dollars for violating city code. Administrators say the fees and threats are just another attempt to “bully” Utopian into pulling out of Riverdale.“They don’t want people to know that a school exists at 6630 Camp Street,” said Artesius Miller, executive director of Utopian. “They have stripped us naked and said basically ‘You all will not have anything so that people will know that you are even here’.”Similar tactics last year resulted in delaying the opening of school for more than a week. A Clayton County fire marshal denied administrators, teachers, and students the right to access the building saying that Utopian needed a last minute inspection among other things to occupy the premises. Utopian lost 80 students after its delayed opening.Utopian’s rocky start inspired legislation to protect state-approved public charter schools from similar stall tactics. The "Utopian Academy for the Arts Act," which went into effect in July, prohibits local governments from requiring public charter schools approved and inspected by officials with the state Department of Education to be forced to obtain any other licenses from local government entities to operate their school.The law does not protect a charter school’s signage, however.In the weeks before classes began this school year, a City of Riverdale code enforcement officer left a violation notice on Utopian’s door warning administrators to take action immediately: “Remove banner until permit is issued and apply for a business license.” Miller said that a member of the Clayton County School board advised him that other county schools in Riverdale are not required to have a sign permit or a business license. “Every time that we have attempted to have some type of signage, we were told that we needed a permit or we were being fined because we are not affiliated with the Board of Education in Clayton County,” he said. [columns] [column half][pullquote left]

Where Is Utopian Academy for the Arts? City Prohibits School From Using Sign[/pullquote][/column] [column half]

“It got really nasty,” Miller said of a recent surprise visit from code enforcement before school began."

Miller said that he has received calls and notes from the city warning that Utopian has accrued fees in the hundreds of dollars for violating city business license and sign codes. “It got really nasty,” Miller said of a recent surprise visit from code enforcement before school began. “The guy came and tossed the [fee list] in the face” of a school supporter.Miller took video footage of the visit that shows a code enforcement officer telling him and a school supporter that an inspection of the school’s signage was necessary because “the Georgia Department of Education does not look for stuff like this on buildings.”For the second year in a row, Miller turned to the State Charter Schools Commission for reinforcement. Miller got a letter explaining to the city that schools authorized by the commission are indeed public schools, not businesses.“Utopian Academy for the Arts is a public charter school authorized by the SCSC- a state level authorizing entity under the authority of the state Board of Education,” wrote Gregg Stevens, general counsel for the commission.“Accordingly, Utopian Academy for the Arts should at all times be treated like a public school with the privileges, rights, and obligations afforded thereto …” Utopian opened in August 2014. It was denied the right to exist by the Clayton County School board in 2011, 2012, and 2013 when the district rejected its charter application. The local denial was over-ruled by the state in October 2013. The state Charter Schools Commission granted Utopian Academy the authority to serve kids for five years as a state charter school. It was the first charter school to win approval from the new commission.[/column] [/columns] State Rep. Valencia Stovall, who supported the opening of Utopian in Clayton and co-sponsored the new law protecting charter schools from harassment, said it was “disheartening” to learn that Utopian is still having trouble with local government.“They should be treated as any other public school opening in the city,” Stovall said. “Instead, they have been hit from both sides from the City of Riverdale and the Clayton County School Board.” Stovall said that in addition to racking up fines from the city, Clayton Schools is exercising its right to charge Utopian much higher rent than the building’s earlier tenant. Utopian pays $3,000 a month to use the building compared to the Riverdale Development Authority, which had a lease allowing it to pay $1 annually for 20 years.School leaders say they refused to be forced out of Riverdale by local leaders who see them as competition. “Being in this fight for so long has been a tedious journey for me not only as a board member, but also a parent,” said Sharon Daniel, who chairs Utopian’s governing board. “We will not give up. We will educate the City of Riverdale.Utopian is a public school. We have a right to be here.” CLICK HERE FOR THIS RELEASE IN A DOWNLOADABLE FORMAT