Yard Empire boys ring in the new year with a bang
Yard Empire, the non-profit organisation geared at transforming the lives of at-risk youth through arts and entertainment, created its own excitement during the annual ‘Fireworks on the Waterfront’ staged by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in downtown Kingston on New Year’s Eve.
The group was invited by the UDC to perform at the popular event, and they captivated the audience.
The rhythmic beat of the drum played by the group echoed as part of a joyous welcome to the dawn of 2024.
“What better way for my boys to ring in the new year,” said Yard Empire founder Terri Salmon.
Yard Empire was started by Salmon who believed the needs of boys were being overlooked in the formal educational system.
Motivated by a desire to make a difference, she embarked on a mission to provide love, attention, and life skills to at-risk boys, aged 18-23, through training in musical, visual and performing arts, irrespective of their background.
“I saw that our boys were being neglected… some students I know at that time got killed, and I decided that I wanted to do something to help out at-risk boys,” Salmon told the Jamaica Observer.
The mother of two boys, Salmon emphasised the importance of empowering boys to combat abuse and promote positive behavioural change.
“Our boys need love, attention, and so I made a commitment to give back to my country by helping those boys,” she added.
Over the years, Yard Empire has not only made a profound impact on the lives of at-risk youth but has also garnered national recognition.
The organisation’s entries in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) competitions have earned gold medals in guitar and recorder categories, with the recorder ensemble winning the national trophy. Some of the boys also excelled in the Associated Board of Royal School of Music (ABRSM) exams.
The ABRSM is an examination board and registered charity based in the United Kingdom and offers exams in 93 countries.
“This year, when we were given the opportunity by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and for the summer programme, we had to show at the end that the boys can play the instrument. So we had to do a concert that culminated on International Men’s Day [and] the boys did tremendously well,” Salmon proudly shared.
One of the beneficiaries of the intervention by Yard Empire, Dontee Saunders, told the Observer that he is grateful for the organisation and the impact that it has had on his life.
“It means everything to me because I usually liked to play music in primary school and when I got to high school I stopped playing music completely and stopped thinking about it,” said Saunders, who joined a band in high school but was forced to stop due to a gang war in his community.
Now he is happy to be given another opportunity to make music.
Saunders, who won a bronze medal in a recent JCDC competition, said participating in these activities helps him to use his free time productively.
“I have more things to occupy myself with, because I have to do a lot for JCDC, plus events are always coming up where we have to practise, so it takes my mind off other unnecessary things,” added Saunders as he declared that Yard Empire’s influence on his life surpasses simply teaching him about the arts.
“We learnt about gender-based violence and how it affects both women and men, and how to be punctual from a young stage and grow up as men and husbands… and not to go into any wars at school,” said Saunders.