These NOLA kids are channeling their emotions into the arts. Here's why that matters.
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New Orleans Tourism

After spending 12 years pursuing acting in Los Angeles, Anthony Bean never thought he'd end up right back in his hometown of New Orleans.

However, after his teenage daughter suddenly passed away there, he felt like it was time for him to return.

Anthony Bean. Photo via Anthony Bean, used with permission.


They had maintained a close relationship by visiting each other regularly, but when she abruptly became ill and died, he realized that NOLA — his birthplace and hers — was meant to be his permanent home.

Even though his daughter was young, she had been eager to take over a small theater company Bean had started back in 1973 called the Ethiopian Theater. It was one of the few black-focused theaters in New Orleans.

So, in the wake of his devastating loss, Bean decided to turn his daughter's dream into a brighter reality.

"I wanted more of a commercial theater and an acting school," Bean says. "A church and school opened up on Carrollton Avenue. In 2000, it became Anthony Bean Community Theater and Acting School."

Bean with some of his students. Photo via Anthony Bean, used with permission.

The theater was designed to be a "quality, culturally diverse performing arts venue," and the acting school offers an eclectic group of classes to both children and adults seeking to learn more about performing, set design, and theater management.

The youth program, however, became ABCT's shining star.

"There’s such a vast need for this type of work, particularly when you’re catering to inner-city kids," Bean says.

While the craft of acting is obviously of importance, Bean says much of the work they do is based around social drama, with kids acting out what's going on in their own lives.

Students during a performance at ABCT. Photo via Anthony Bean, used with permission.

That's why the school focuses on teaching the Stanislavsky method of acting, which deals with character emotionality first and foremost. Bean says it seems to be the best way in for kids who have less of an academic background.

However, that way of working often delivers astounding results.

"I find when dealing with inner-city kids, emotion is who they are," Bean explains. "And when you incorporate that into the arts, you’ve got fireworks."

Since the beginning, the youth programs have been popular with kids and parents. That's why Bean maintains them, even while they don't have an official space.

Kids in the ABCT youth program. Photo via ABCT, used with permission.

Unfortunately their original space was turned into a charter school, so ABCT had to vacate, and is currently awaiting sufficient funds to get a new space. While fundraising in the community has been going well enough, it's been a struggle, especially since the government cut the Wisner Grant, which had supported the theater and school.

That said, he remains optimistic, especially considering the success of the most recent summer program.

ABCT Summer Program is more than a Camp...It's Culture!9 Week Summer Theater ProgramCulminates with the soulful, hit...

Posted by Anthony Bean Community Theater & Acting School on Friday, February 3, 2017

This past summer, they put on two musical productions: "Soulville" and "Old Skool." If you're in NOLA during the summer months, the ABCT kids' shows are more than worth the price of admission. You won't just be supporting good theater, you'll be helping sustain a life-changing school.

The kids are learning to channel their emotionality into something constructive, and the best part is, they get to be part of a beautiful, collaborative product that earns rousing applause at the end. What could be more validating?

Not only is the program giving inner-city kids a creative outlet, it's breeding real talent.

A student in an ABCT production of "The Color Purple." Photo via ABCT, used with permission.

Many ABCT students matriculate into the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), one of the most prestigious art programs in the country. Some former students have even gone on to do rather well professionally in the entertainment business. Wendell Pierce — star of shows like "The Wire" and "Treme," for example — is a former ABCT student.

Bean is working tirelessly to keep ABCT afloat, and hopes the new administration will start lending a hand.

Kids in the ABCT program. Photos via ABCT, used with permission.

Programs that specifically cater to marginalized and inner-city kids are few and far between. Considering schools nationwide are cutting arts programs right and left, theaters like ABCT are becoming rare gems that need to be saved.

Not only are these programs fun for kids, having a place in which they feel they belong instills confidence in them they might not have found anywhere else.

"There are many kids out there who can’t play football, who don’t like sports," Bean says. "I'm providing an outlet for these kids."

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Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday are teaming up to find the people who lead with love everyday.

Know someone in your neighborhood who's known for their optimistic attitude, commitment to bettering their community and always leading with love? Tell us about them for the chance to win a $2,000 grant to keep doing good in their community.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.