STORY #6: Showcase Time!

OCU showcases are the heartbeat or pulse of our work. They’re like gifts wrapped in sandpaper, each student or group unraveling their light onto the mic as they show how they grew, from beginning to end, from being with FLY BY LIGHT. The showcases give folks an active view of what it looks like to heal and express through the power of the arts.

The youth gain valuable performance skills that, really, in the backdrop, are social-emotional skills. They gain more confidence, learn self-awareness, practice willpower and resilience, learn to stretch themselves and push beyond their comfort zone. By sharing their artistry here, they get a place to just be themselves, in their full truth with little to no filter. They also gain new friends and community by being a part of the showcase. This is the extra bonus. Bonds are formed during the showcases that help when summertime rolls around and we travel together for retreats. The showcases give students a circle of support and acknowledgement for who they are, walking in their light, their truth. After performing, they come away excited, excited to write and express more and be a part of changing the world through art and social justice.

As the Creative Director of the showcases and director of the Performance Troupe, I’m responsible for auditioning and casting the talent by working with students and their site facilitators on their technique, performance and presentation. I create the overall throughline theme that is usually woven, from the centering topic of the majority of the performance pieces. I organize the order of performers, book the feature performers and host the showcases; sometimes solo and sometimes with a co-host. I do it because I am a true artist and lover of using the arts to heal. It gives me great pleasure to watch the students and staff build their pieces from scratch and work it and rehearse it until it becomes their own masterpiece.

The showcase element of OCU’s work is absolutely important because it’s where people get to see all the magic of the work of the youth and the facilitators from throughout the whole year, shine. You get to see what the different schools have been working on, what’s important to them or what they’re passionate about, and more. It fully embraces our “artistic expression” pillar but all the others as well. The showcases are where many people get to see our impact and why we are called Fly By Light.

Since OCU has been producing Showcases, it has gone from novice, guerilla-style to a very professional show. The venues have varied and each time, our students rise to the occasion from small intimate spaces like Bloombars to larger arenas like The Gala Theater. We’ve been able to add in various modalities of performance art including acting and speeches, as well as a space for our new Organizing Troupe to speak on issues. We also have had the chance to have middle school students perform. The students definitely go through a more rigorous process of auditioning and rehearsal to make the show much more seamless and get the experience of working as professional artists in this capacity.

When the community shows up to our Showcases it’s usually very diverse: from parents and students, to community organizations, schools and even potential funders. We love it when the community rallies around seeing our young people shine their light. We always welcome more! Aside from witnessing the incredible talent, sowing a seed into young people’s lives by showing up and supporting and showing them what’s possible, with that support, is a great investment in a student’s mental and emotional health. They will receive the ultimate blessing from when heart-meets-the-arts. It will connect them to the gamechangers and changemakers of our future and they can say they were there from the beginning.

Unfortunately, covid has affected OCU’s access to the students, which became more challenging due to socio-economic barriers for communities where technology is not readily accessible or available, however, we were able to have a very successful online spring showcase despite the pandemic. We are planning for more showcases and open mics as we dive deeper into the virtual learning space. When it is safe to do so, we absolutely want and need to get back to our live showcases. School enrollment and access to Fly By Light students in schools is a key factor to our ability to pull the showcases off. We are working diligently with schools to collaborate with their performing arts teachers so that we can quickly identify students who identify as artists, to get them involved with Fly By Light, the Performance Troupe and ultimately our great showcases. I love everything about the transference of true stories translated into performance art for the impact of transforming lives. We need to get back to that. Stat. Hosting the OCU showcases feels like home, knowing that the mic is open for healing.

~ Princess Best, The HipHopMomma, aka “The Healacist”, FBL Program Facilitator & Creative Director, Performance Troupe


“Voices of a Movement”






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