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‘Soul of the City’; a conversation with curator Darnell Miller

October 3, 2019

By: Briana Harris | @brikeey

Held in downtown Wilmington on Shipley and Market Streets between 7th and 8th Streets, the fourth annual ‘Soul of the City’ event featured crafts, vendors, food trucks, family activities, and live performances all organized by Christina Cultural Arts Center students, faculty, alumni, and associated local artists. This past weekend, WITN22 reporter Briana Harris caught up with curator Darnell Miller to get the inside scoop:

Briana (WITN22 Reporter): Tell me about your role with CCAC

Darnell Miller (CCAC teacher and ‘Soul of the City’ Curator): “I’ve been with the Christina Arts Center personally for almost 30 years, and professionally for about 15. The Teaching Artist role I’m in teaches early childhood performing arts. I’m involved in their outreach program, where I’m currently partnered with Kuumba Academy Charter School, teaching general music and instrument. With that we go into schools in the surrounding areas and serve specific populations to provide them with good quality arts education.” 

Briana: What is Wilmington’s ‘Soul of the City’?

Darnell Miller: “The purpose of ‘Soul of the City’ is to celebrate the soul of this city, which include all of the cultures that represent this city from the browntown community, to the eastside community; from Little Italy, to the Korean community, and beyond all coming together. It’s also put on to celebrate all of those who came through the Christina Arts Center and have made an impact in the performing arts world. This is ‘Soul of the City’s fourth annual event, and this year we collaborated with the Episcopal Church of St. Andrews & Matthew, who normally host the ‘Community Fun Fest’ event. Together we created the ‘Soul of the City Community Fun Fest!’”

Photo By Robert Kaehler

Briana: How do you choose event vendors?

Darnell Miller: “The vision has always been to have vendors that represent all cultures. This year we targeted vendors that represent pan African culture, Carribean culture, Latino culture, Native American culture and Middle Eastern culture…and the best way to gain that type of representation is through clothes, music, and food. Today we have Two Vegan Girls, a vegan comfort food truck that was highly recommended to us by Tish Williams of Sadiddy Hippie, a handmade care company based in Wilmington; just to name a few. This year is the best it has been represented thus far, so I know that with each year, we’ll get better and that the vision will become more clear. All races, all creeds, all cultures!”

Briana: What would you like to see for future entertainment?

Darnell Miller: “Most of the entertainers that are performing on stage today have been a product of the Christina Arts Center or are supportive allies of CCAC.In the future I’d like to add even more artists. Not just ones associated with CCAC, but I’d like to extend sets out to local and national emerging artists. I’d like to incorporate more variety of artists in regards to culture representation including rap, hip hop, rock, and afrobeat. This is the ‘Soul of the City,’ so the music and the art should reflect that.” 

Briana: How does an organization fund something like this? Do the proceeds go towards CCAC programs?

Darnell Miller: “Lately it’s been about breaking even, but eventually we’d like to do more than just break even, we’d like to see a profit. But it’s not all about finances; there’s one thing that money can’t buy and that is more people becoming aware of CCAC and all that it has to offer to the community. We’re a nonprofit, and we do this because we genuinely love this type of thing, but at the same time, being that we give to the community all year as teachers, artists, and administrators; it’d be nice for the city to help support us as we work towards a blessing. It’s a labor of love. Even for the artists. They come and they unselfishly give their time, and in the future we’d like to be able to compensate them. We aren’t getting any funding from the city…but that would be great! Entertainment attracts people, so if we had an artist budget, imagine what we could do! Right now, the best thing the city can do is help make people aware of our events, but nonetheless we will soldier on!” 

Photo By Robert Kaehler

Briana: What steps should one interested in assisting with this event take?

Darnell Miller: “Contact the CCAC and talk to anyone who’s sitting at the front desk. Tell them that you’d like to be apart of the ‘Soul of the City.’ Right now we are putting together a new committee for this event, so we’re always open to accepting new volunteers.”  

Any upcoming events or opportunities?

Darnell Miller: “Christina Arts Center has been around and putting on exciting productions for 70+ years, and we continue to plan for upcoming events. We have an exciting season coming up with local bands like Afro-jazz and soul band– Ajoyo, singing duo Richard and Aziza, pop group Genesis Z and the black Mambas, jazz singer Sharon Sable, and of course our students are having a showcase in December. 

In addition I’d like to share some info about one of my favorite program here at CCAC. It’s called the Young Entrepreneurship program, and it takes young applicants between the ages of 16 and 21 and it connects them to people, and grants them an internship in the industry they wish to work in.” 

To contact Darnell Miller contact, visit his socials at Darnell K Miller.