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Photo Essay: Art and Issues on Display for Community at Kern Youth Arts Festival

By Marcus Castro

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.,– Hundreds of people gather at Rexland Park on July 7 to experience the talent of Kern County youth. The event used music and art to showcase local youth talent and also to draw attention to issues that exist in their community.

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A week after the successful kick-off event for the Summer Youth Justice Series, Dulce UpFront curated the event with live music by DB and the Struggle, food and other visual arts. The event was put on by South Kern Sol with support from South Kern Building Healthy Communities, The Arts Council of Kern, New America Media, and the The California Endowment.

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The festival showcased booths of art pieces, live painting, live music, dance, and spoken word. People such as Dion Bell, live painter, and Mateo Luna, poet, showed their talents while showing support for the youth movement.

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While the event was vibrant and fun for many, there was still discussion about serious issues that are going on in the community.

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Dean Welliver, South Kern Sol youth reporter and Dolores Huerta Foundation LGBT Equality Organizer, lead the discussion as he gave an emotional speech to the large crowd at Rexland Acres Park.

“The youth of Kern County are here to say that enough is enough; we won’t stand for the lack of investment in our youth, in our education, in our mental health, and in our futures. We are getting loud,” said Welliver.

Welliver spoke proudly as he ran through issues that are ongoing in the community.

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“I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the youth movement that gets loud about everybody’s issues from different perspectives and diverse backgrounds. This is amazing because all of the issues we are dealing with, no matter how different they may seem, are connected. What affects one member of our community affects us all,” said Welliver.

He attacked the issue of a lack in investment in education and specifically suggested a Bakersfield College campus in Arvin as a solution. Welliver also mentioned the need for clean drinking water in the South Kern community as 1,2,3-TCP, a contaminant in the water, puts the community at risk of major health problems.

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Another speaker at the festival, South Kern Sol youth reporter Yesenia Aguilar, demanded justice for the rural communities of Kern County that are predominantly made up of Hispanics.

“I say no more to the Hispanic community being underrepresented because we are represented; we represent ourselves, and we do it with pride,” said Aguilar.

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An ongoing issue in Kern County is access to health care, especially for undocumented residents.

Welliver said, “Everyone in our community deserves to have access to quality health care. We need to stop the cycle of people not being able to get health care services because they are undocumented.”

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The festival celebrated youth art but also encouraged people to vote in order to promote a healthier community. 

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Welliver ended by saying, “Get loud and get out to vote in November to show that we will not tolerate a lack of investment in our youth, and our elected officials need to be held accountable to ensure that our opportunities for success remain intact.”

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