Five local talents will go head-to-head for the chance to become the first ever Signal Boost Champion.
Dozens of competitors applied when the Signal Boost competition first opened in October, only five will be performing during Thursday’s event. Invited to perform an original song or spoken word poem, the five finalists will be competing for cash prizes, studio time, and up to $2,500 for a local nonprofit of their choosing.
The competition, presented by Luma and Flint’s Shop Floor Theatre Company, will take place at 7:00p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9th inside the Capitol Theatre. In addition to the finalists, the event will also include performances by local artists Mama Sol and Tha N.U.T.S., Jon Connor, and Charity. Tickets are free and may be reserved online in advance.
When Flint’s Jo Ikigai went to register for an audition at the start of the competition, all the time slots had been filled. But the opportunity was something Ikigai couldn’t ignore. “Something just in my heart was like, ‘You know what? I’m just gonna go anyway,’” they said.
Ikigai asked to sit in the hallway in case any performers failed to show up, and their patience paid off. “Major shoutouts to whoever didn’t show up,” Ikigai said. Now a finalist in the competition, Ikigai will be presenting an original poem entitled “Me Too”.
Ikigai wrote the piece last November, not long after a video they made and posted to social media went viral. In the video, Ikigai ousted a former employer who had sexually assaulted them.
The video “was also an extremely traumatic event,” Ikigai said. “I was threatened a lot. I had people threaten to rape me and kill me, beat me … I really had to dig deep to process out what I was going through.”
At 23 years old, Ikigai has become “the face of something I never wanted to be the face of.” In July of this year, Ikigai was confronted by a relative of the man in a club who proceeded to assault them and accused Ikigai of lying. “It’s just been a very difficult journey,” Ikigai said.
The competition has been “a breath of fresh air” for Ikigai. “I’m very grateful to Luma and Shop Floor Theatre.”
Ikigai has decided to give to the local nonprofit I Found My Voice. The program centers around using art as a way to heal from sexual trauma and provides services to survivors across the state. As a poet, Ikigai often finds healing in their work and is excited to help others do the same.
17-year old Jenna Clark’s piece also came as a way of healing after a sexual assault that resulted in a miscarriage. Clark recently moved to Swartz Creek and heard about Signal Boost through an advertisement via SnapChat. Despite concerns that the opportunity might be fake, she researched the competition and decided to apply.
Her piece, “Haunted”, was written a few days before Clark entered the competition. “It’s just a really emotional piece for me,” she said. “It was the only way to cope with things and get my feelings and emotions out in ways that I couldn’t describe.”
“I feel like to understand my music and who I am as an artist you kind of have to understand my story and what led me to write this song,” Clark said. “This song… it meant everything to me.”
Clark knows that many people have gone through situations similar to hers, but found the lack of discussion in the media difficult. “I couldn’t find someone that I could personally relate to,” she said. Clark says the biggest thing she felt through her experience was alone, and hopes that by sharing her song someone else out there will hear it and know that they are heard.
Unfamiliar with the area, Clark knew she wanted to find a charity with a focus on miscarriage. “Nobody talks about the physical pain,” of miscarriage, Clark said. She’d observed that nobody talked about the experience and how heavily associated it is with stigma and feelings of shame.
Clark eventually came across March of Dimes and named them as her charity. “I wanted something that I felt I could really, really support through the emotions.”
17-year old Flint resident Kameron Motley, known by his stage name Moosie and locally as the voice of the youth, heard about Signal Boost through a youth program, Young Ambassadors, where he serves as president. Young Ambassadors is a branch of Church Without Walls’s WOW Outreach program, and Motley has named WOW as his local nonprofit of choice.
When he found out that he was chosen to be a finalist, “I was surprised and I was thankful,” Motley said. WOW has given him a voice, and he’s learned to make that voice stronger through the competition.
During a workshop critique, Mama Sol pointed out authenticity in his lyrics. “She talked about how I needed to find my voice and, I’m not gonna lie, that really hurt me,” Motley said. “It made me rethink a little bit.”
Since then, “I’ve been more conscious when writing,” he says. “I’ve been way more authentic. I realize now that whatever she said was really just out of love and I really thank her for telling me that.”
Motley auditioned with his piece “Deeper Than Rhymes (Overcame),” about overcoming adversity in the community, which he’s since created a music video for after performing the song at WOW’s 21st Annual Unity March, but he’ll be performing a different work at the competition.
21-year-old Messiah Douglass of Flint will be performing a song he made about his father. “I did it from my heart,” he said. Douglass said he’s excited to show the world his talent and what he’s really about.
“Everybody can hear from what I saw, what I wrote for my dad,” he said. “It touched me when I found out ”
Douglass plans to select a nonprofit dedicated to cancer research. “Cancer runs in my family,” Douglass explained. When asked to pick a charity, “that’s … the first thing that came to my mind,” he said.
Bleau McCray-Morel, a 21-year-old guitarist from Flint, “honestly didn’t wanna participate in the beginning.” McCray-Morel decided to audition after Mama Sol advised him to when she heard him playing at a bar.
Now a finalist, McCray-Morel has been able to find new experiences and meet new people throughout his journey in the competition. The song he plans to perform centers around Flint without ever identifying the city by name.
“There’s a lot going on here and nobody seems to notice it,” he said. “It’s got a lot of heart. People just need to take the time to give the city some love.”
“Living out here, I can’t imagine not having family that cares about you to help you get through it,” McCray-Morel said. He’s chosen Whaley Children’s Center as his nonprofit. “I have some friends who’ve had some hard times with stuff like that … I can sympathize,” he said.