Through the spoken word, dance, music and visual art, young Savannah artists from the Deep Center's Block By Block program expressed their concept of migration in the context of geography, culture, mind and body at performance on Saturday at the Yamacraw Performing Arts Center. 

The program featured a school year’s worth of work from dozens of Savannah students in a variety of mediums, all as a part of the program’s ongoing community dialogue. Block By Block's young artists are high school students in the Savannah area. For the last year, they've received 6-10 hours of Deep programs per week, and Saturday's performance was the culmination of those efforts.

Inspired by personal, family and community history, this year’s theme, “Migration Stories: Deep Roots of the Collective,” took a closer look at the program’s central question: How does our environment and the company we keep shape the people we become?

One of those artists was recent Beach High School graduate Samuel “J. Picasso” Poole.

“Every year we do something different. One year we were exploring our own background and where we live, and last year we expanded more outside of Savannah,” Poole said. “Now we’re going even further than that, we’re exploring other countries, what made Savannah how it is, and what made us how we are.”

Poole’s piece, “Black Boy Hanging,” explored the hangings of two black men in Chatham County.

“My piece is trying to go right to that and bring light,” Poole said. “What if that happened today? What would you do? How would you feel? I don’t tell you how to feel. I don’t make you feel any type of way, but in the piece, you should find yourself asking, ‘OK, what would I do if that happened?’”

Poole has been involved in Deep programs for seven years.

“This is my last year, and I’m kind of emotional today because we’ve got a lot of seniors who were here when it first started,” Poole said. “We went from being just writers, and now we’re dancing, putting on theater.”

Dare Dukes, executive director of Deep, said branching out into other mediums was another way to help the young artists tell the stories of their community.

“About four years ago, we started looking at how literacy is defined and discovered that people who are researching language literacy understand that all kinds of other modes of creative play inform language literacy, and for that reason, we started incorporating it,” Dukes said. “Also, it’s just fun, and we wanted to bring more joy into the space.”

Deep’s students put on the entire show, from stage managing to programming. Michaela Ford was one of the stage managers on Saturday.

“Last year, a lot of people wanted to branch out and do different things, because the two years before, it was strictly storytelling, but as more people came in we had a more diverse style,” Ford said. “They wanted to do dancing and acting, and we just started putting it together.

Senior Programs Director Megan Ave’Lallemant said regardless of the medium, all of the performances were storytelling.

“It’s all storytelling, and it’s all forms of composing. You can write with pen and paper, you can type it into a computer, you can use a paintbrush or a collage or your body, and that’s still making meaning and telling a story,” Ave’Lallemant said. “It’s not just to inform the writing. It’s all writing.”

After the show, the block party began with food provided by Farm Truck 912, 520 Wings, Mofo’s BBQ, Kayak Cafe, Rancho Alegre, Joseph Fields Farm and So Icy Thrills. It was served to all who attended.

“Deep is a family environment,” Poole said. “You can’t get this any place else.”