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Gullah church to Disney stage First Baptist of James Island

James Island’s Kedrick Pasley shines after a childhood of dance and life lessons from leaders in the church

Kedrick Pasley has been dancing since he was in the womb. His mom would listen to music and her belly would roll along with the melody. When the music stopped, so did Kedrick. Since his beginnings on James Island, South Carolina, Kedrick’s light shined bright because of the investment one church and one woman made in his life.

Kedrick grew up on James Island, a Gullah community on the coast of Charleston, S.C. Gullah culture is rich in history and fine arts, and dance is a significant part of that heritage. He received consistent encouragement, training, and direction from faith and community leaders like Reverend Charlie Murray and Ms. Myra Chambers, a member of First Baptist of James Island and dance instructor at the YMCA, who invested their time and resources into youth programs for creative expression both in and outside the church.

For over one hundred years, Reverend Murray’s church, First Baptist Church of James Island (FBCJI), has been at the center of the Gullah community. Beginning in 1889, the church played a vital role in the preservation of the Gullah culture and the promotion of self-worth in the Gullah people. FBCJI has been a place where generations of Gullah people have gathered to sing, dance, dramatize their history, and express their faith. It is a place where they can feel a sense of belonging and community.

The Sunshine Choir, drama and mime ministry, and praise dance team at FBCJI are just a few of the ways that children like Kedrick can pursue their passion for the arts. These programs would not be possible without the generous support of volunteers and supporters who give their time, resources, and talent to help others reach their full potential. Little girls used to tell him, “Boys don’t dance. Dancing is for girls!” But he persisted, and Ms. Myra pulled out “a personality he didn’t know he had.”

In a stress-filled culture that bombards adolescents with tragic news, it is more important than ever to give young people the opportunity to express themselves through dance. Dance programs for young children to teens offer a creative outlet that can help youngsters develop a sense of self-confidence and identity, while also reducing mental stress by discharging their muscle tension (Series IX Sciences of Human Kinetics, Dec. 2020 13(62)(2):133-138).

In addition, dance programs can foster a sense of community and belonging. For many young people, church dance programs provide a welcome respite from the pressures of school, friendships, and social media. They offer a chance to connect with others who share a passion for movement and self-expression. By giving young people the chance to explore their creativity through dance, church dance programs play a significant role in helping them find their place in a hostile world.

Through dance programs offered on James Island, Kedrick was inspired to attend Charleston School of the Arts and later earn his degree in broadcast journalism. He has continued to dance through it all and has earned a spot on the Disney World dance cast. He continues to return home to James Island and supports the continued investment in dance opportunities for underrepresented communities everywhere.

Kedrick is just one example of how the power of sacrifice and generosity can change lives for the better. Dance is a powerful art form, and it is one that should be cherished and preserved. With your help, FBCJI can continue to offer these programs to the Gullah children of James Island.

By donating to First Baptist Church of James Island, you are joining the most generous community of givers in the world, who find joy in promoting the arts for youth on their journey of self-worth, purpose, and creative expression.

God doesn’t want to see us use our gifts real, real tiny. He wants us to use them big!"

- Myra Chambers

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