Arts and academics will be spotlighted at Elkhart church on Saturday

Expert on minority education issues will talk at 11 a.m., while Cornbread and Jazz is set for 1:30 p.m.

Posted on July 8, 2014 at 9:51 p.m.

ELKHART — If you care about academics and art, St. James AME Church in Elkhart looks like the place to be Saturday.

Two events seemingly merged into one with the hopes of spurring more talk about the need to help propel minority students.

One is a speech and the other is an art show organized by Cornbread and Jazz.

Beginning at 11 a.m., the church will host a talk by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, an author of more than three dozen books, who will discuss how to improve black and Hispanic students’ academic achievement.

Kunjufu’s appearance is part of the church’s ongoing effort to support educational initiatives for minorities, according to the Rev. Jennifer Tinsley, pastor of the church.

To promote the event, city leaders, including Mayor Dick Moore and Elkhart Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Haworth, participated in a news conference Tuesday urging the community to attend the speech.

“We want the general public to join in the conversation because everyone in the community has a role to play in providing healthy learning opportunities for black and Latino youths,” Tinsley said. “When we all work together to encourage their growth, they can better use their gifts to advance the city well into their future.”

Organizers are asking for a $10 donation to the event. A continental breakfast begins at 10 a.m.

At 1:30 p.m., Cornbread and Jazz, a community arts initiative that began about five years ago, will host an art show featuring the work of people who have been imprisoned or directly affected by incarceration.

The artwork will help underscore the struggle for justice, said Joanna Shenk, a representative of Cornbread and Jazz.

“With the art show, we’re looking at the correlation of the lack of educational support and the high incarceration rates of minority youths,” Shenk said.

A live jazz band along with light refreshments will be part of the event that will showcase a handful of artists. The event continues until 3 p.m.

“Encouraging artistic expression in youth is one way to foster confidence and well-being,” Shenk said. “It’s also a way for adults to find new meaning and express their passion.”

Jake Webster, a sculpture artist who is helping line up art for the show, sees a direct connection between art and learning.

Webster said he believes young people who can’t read or write will actively seek to be suspended to avoid the embarrassment of their academic shortcomings.

“Teaching art is about rigorous thinking,” Webster said. “That’s what art is — a teaching tool.”

Admission to Cornbread and Jazz is free, but organizers said they always appreciate a donation.

The church is at 122 Martin Luther King Drive.

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