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Teens show their best at Richmond’s Got Talent Show

on July 26, 2010

Teenage singers, dancers, a saxophone player and a band gave their best at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium last Friday during the Richmond’s Got Talent show, a competition for a $500 first place prize. The event meant to inspire creativity and promote talent among youth.

Haley Slamon, second prize winner, singing “When You're Good to Mama” from the musical Chicago. Photo by Veronica Moscoso.

“Faith and hope is what we intend to inspire in our young people,” said emcee AJ Jelani, in a speech kicking off the event. Jelani, who was also the coordinator of the event, is the acting president of the Belding Woods Neighborhood Council, which organized the talent show in an effort to steer middle and high school teens away from crime and violence by giving them a peaceful, creative summer activity.

An audience of about 200 people cheered and applauded the fifteen performances, including some that went far beyond amateur level. One of them was the performance of Haley Slamon, who sang “When You’re Good to Mama” from the musical Chicago. She showed coolness in her singing and stage presence. “I started singing when I was three or four but I haven’t taken professional singing ever,” said Slamon who has performed in front of large audiences before.

Other contestants were very new at performing, including 16-year-old Derlante Sims. “I just wanted to try for the first time on the stage,” he said. Sims loves music and singing, and he chose to perform “Summer Time” by Sam Cook. “The song makes me feel warm on the inside, so I wanted to sing that and let everybody know how it made me feel,” Sims said.

David Hernandez, performing the choreography that earned him third prize. Photo by Veronica Moscoso.

David Hernandez, almost 12, was one of the youngest performers, and enchanted the audience with his hip-hop moves during a solo dance performance. “He created the choreography himself, ” said his mother, Patricia Valdivia after he finished his act. “I’m very nervous and very excited for my child,” she said, pointing out that her son was talented but he never had a mentor.

After he finished performing Hernandez said that he would be happy if he wins, but if he didn’t he’d be happy, too, “because I danced, and I’m happy when I dance.”

Although there was more hip-hop than any other music during the event, Kalin Freeman played Michael Jackson’s “I’ll Be There” on his alto saxophone, an instrument he learned to play at Richmond High School. “If I win this, it’s a step for me to do something better,” he said. Freeman dedicated his performance to his uncle Clinton, who had recently passed away.

Alia Washington co-hosting with emcee AJ Jelani. Photo by Veronica Moscoso.

Most of the contestants showed confidence on stage. Some singers came down to dance and interact with the public. The audience kept getting more and more enthusiastic as the event progressed, and a few even participated, like when one audience member stepped up to the stage to rap.

Spontaneous participation was encouraged. When Lady-T, a professional young singer from Oakland, performed, some dancers from the group MalFUNKtion, who were competing in the contest, volunteered to accompany her song with their moves. Jelani, the emcee, constantly made people laugh and made them repeat “faith and hope,” throughout the show. He called nine year-old Alia Washington up onto the stage to help him co-host, too. During the show, the competitors showed no sign of rivalry. They were supportive of each other, clapping, cheering and singing along.

The group Angels of Praise dance to the song "Make me Over." Photo by Veronica Moscoso.

When the time came to select the winners, the judges gave the third place prize to David Hernandez for his solo hip-hop dance. Second place went to singer Haley Slamon. First place went to MalFUNKtion, a hip-hop dance troupe of eight male dancers, whose elaborate choreography showed hard work. The winners received trophies as well as cash prizes.

In another spontaneous move, individuals from the audience donated money for a fourth, fifth and sixth prizes that went to saxophone player Kalin Freeman, singer Ramell Jones and Ponopoly, a hip-hop band composed of three boys and one girl. All of the participants got certificates for competing in the talent show.

The audience enjoyed the show and was supportive of the performers. Photo by Veronica Moscoso.

As she received her trophy, Slamon said how impressed she had been by the performances of those who had been onstage for the first time. “I’m so proud of everyone and so happy that I got to be a part of this,” she said as the crowd cheered.

The performers and the audience left the venue in high spirits. “I think events like this make the children feel that they are important,” said Patricia Valdivia, the mother of second place winner David Hernandez.

“Richmond needs to speak up and let everybody know that we have talent too,” said Sims.

Lu Parker, 82 came to see fifth place winner Ramell Jones perform—he is a friend’s grandson. Parker said there were more people that she expected and that she had fun. “I just enjoyed this show. It was beautiful to see all the talent,” she said.

Teens in the audience enjoy the performances. Photo by Veronica Moscoso.

Audience member Jackie Thompson said she was there to show support for the youth. “I know they need the support of the community,” she said. Thompson’s grandson was murdered in Richmond in 2003, and she said she is aware of the importance of networking with young people. “When they do something good we need to support them, so I’m here,” she said.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin attended along with her husband Paul Kilkenny, as did city council member Ludmyrna Lopez and her baby son.

Officer Reyes-García of the Richmond Police Department, who was monitoring the site during the event, said, “It was a real joy to see the kids performing and do what they really enjoy.” Reyes-García thinks events like this bring the neighborhoods together.

All the competitors received certificates of appreciation for participating in the show. Photo by Veronica Moscoso.

“We need to show the world that the youth has talent, especially in a city like Richmond,” said Raina Hinchee, one of the singers from sixth place winning band Ponoply. “A lot of people when they hear ‘Richmond,’ they just want to push away, but showing that this city has talent is really, really crucial.”


  1. Stephanie Mann on July 27, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I was honored to be asked to be a judge at this wonderful event. It is a great way to engage youth.

    Thanks to AJ Jelani for his hard work putting this event together and to Veronica Moscoso for your well written article.

  2. Teresa Sweetser on July 27, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Dear Richmond Confidental;
    I loved your article about the “Richmond Got Talent” show that premeired on Friday night at the Richmond Autdiorium. I am an avid supporter of Richmond Youth so I know that our children are beautiful and talented. Now that more of the community knows how motivated our children are they can support the efforts of youth on many levels.
    On Friday, July 30th from 6:30pm to 9:00pm. All are invited to see more talented youth at the Grace Lutheran Youth Concert. The concert is a fund raiser for the youth music program and will show case the talents of some of the fifty youngsters who had free music lessons at the Grace Summer Music Camp. Grace Lutheran Church is on 24th St and Barrett Richmond,Ca. Admission is $8.00 – Adults, $5.00 for youth 13 – 18 years old, $3 for youth 12years and under.Plese support our youth. Thank You

  3. Victoria on July 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    I love reading these positive stories because Richmond has such a bad reputation- not to ignore that we have real problems and tragedies, but there are also so many great and beautiful things here. Thank you for your stories.

  4. Elizabeth Kuizenga on July 27, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Wow. I’m so sorry I missed this event. Sounds wonderful.

  5. Lillie on July 27, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Congratulations to all of the participants of the Richmond Got Talent Show! You should all be proud of your accomplishments and should continue to express yourself thru the art of singing, dancing and instrumentals.

    Also, a big thanks to Mr. AJ Jelani for always looking at ways to keep our youth involved in the community. We should all get involved to teach our young men and women that they are somebody and could do whatever they want in life if they work hard at it.

    A job well done!
    Hope and Faith

  6. Christina Slamon on July 28, 2010 at 10:18 am Here is the link to Haley Slamon’s second place performance: When You’re Good To Mama from Chicago

  7. Christina Slamon on July 28, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Stage Door Conservatory is presenting the musical Chicago this weekend (July 30, 31 & August 1) at the Julia Morgan Center in Berkeley. Haley Slamon is performing in the part of Mama Morton. Tickets cost $15 and are available in advance at or at the door one hour before showtime.

    Stage Door Conservatory will also be presenting Bye Bye Birdie at the El Cerrito High School Theater on August 13 – 15, 2010.

  8. Vichea on July 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I really enjoy the show but I think it’s very sad that all the kids where not shown in this report.They all work very hard to be apart of this.

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