Shelby: To the world, this choir is known as Gospel for Teens, but to the teens in the choir, it is better known as “the family.”
“That’s what we are. We’re so close that it’s like being in a family.”
“The choir, the family, my family, everybody. We all love each other.”
Shelby: Every week, David Moses and Shaquila Roberts meet up with others in “the family” to sing at the choir’s Harlem headquarters in New York City.
Behind each voice is a teen with a unique story. But blended together, those voices share a beautiful message. A love for gospel music.
What is gospel?
“From my point of view, I believe gospel is a message from God to tell you that you’re ok.”
Shelby: Expressing emotions is what gospel is all about. No matter how tough things get.
“My cousin Manuel just passed not too long ago and when I came to rehearsal there was one song we were singing. The song was a song called Go Down, Moses. And that’s a song we all get into. And because I was releasing all of my anger into the song, that everything just popped, like, just started smiling.”
Shelby: Just like every family, Gospel for Teens has a mother too. Her name is Vy Higginson, also known as “Mama Vy.”
“Mama says all the time before we start singing, ‘leave all that drama and sadness with your boyfriend, with your mama, with your girlfriend.”
Shelby: Mama Vy’s number one rule is: let go of your troubles to let in gospel.
“We have to let that go so we can let in these words and these feelings and these emotions.”
Vy Higginson: Teenagers these days actually go through a lot of stress. Why? Because a lot of them hold things back when there is something going on with them.
“So, she makes us shake and get rid of all the stress. That actually helps.”
Mama Vy: So, what we’re going to do is shake it out. And let it out. Shake! Shake! Let it go, let it go, let it go!
Shelby: But for these teens, gospel’s more than just music. It’s history.
“The first gospel songs come from slave times because the first thing that black people were allowed was to sing and dance. And through song, they communicated with each other without the slave masters knowing what they’re talking about.”
Shelby: So, have you learned about your ancestry and your history because of this choir?
“I have, I have. I appreciate it a lot more now.”
Shelby: Learning about the past and singing boldly in the present.
So, has being in choir translated to other areas in your life?
“It helped me get my grades higher because I was failing in class. Why? Because I felt like I didn’t want to be there. So, now I’m more outgoing and actually my grades are so great that I’m on the honor roll.”
Shelby: The choir practices every Friday and all that practice pays off when people from all over come to watch them perform.
We watched the teens clap, shimmy, and belt their way though the show. If rehearsals make them feel good, then performances like these make them feel great.
“I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s just being up on stage and entertaining the people and being up with my friends and just having fun.”
“I’m stepping into another realm of singing in front of people. And my message to them is that I want them to feel what I’m feeling when I sing gospel.”
Shelby: And what is that?
“Joy. Pure joy. Happiness. That is what being part of “the family” is all about.
Shelby: If you didn’t’ have music, where would you be?
“Home…in bed. Not doing anything at all.”
Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.