Talented students ready to shine at NAACP National Convention in Downtown Detroit

Big names come to Detroit for NAACP National Convention

DETROIT – The nation's spotlight will soon shine on Downtown Detroit as some very big names arrive for the NAACP National Convention.

A group of students from across the country will come to Downtown Detroit to showcase their talents in the arts, science and music.

Crystal Tigney has been performing in front of an audience since she was in third grade.

"I'm from Detroit, Michigan," Tigney said. "I was born and raised here in the city."

The Cash Tech graduate is one of 13 Detroit high school students competing in the NAACP ACT-SO competition.

"This weekend really means a lot to me," Tigney said. "This is the national competition and it just means a lot to me to be representing the city of Detroit in a positive light and be representing my culture and being able to share with the people from the other states, share Detroit with them."

ACT-SO stands for Afro-Academic, Cultural Technological Scientific Olympics or, as the students call it, Olympics of the mind.

The 13 local competitors will represent the Detroit Central Branch of the NAACP and the Detroit NAACP Youth Council.

"This is Detroit's finest creme de la creme," said MaryAnne Broner, the co-chair of the Detroit Central Branch and Detroit NAACP ACT-SO. "This is the cream of the crop that Detroit has to offer."

This year's competition is being held at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center and will draw nearly 800 students from across the country.

"They come from all over," Broner said. "They come from Florida, New Jersey, all the way to the West Coast -- Washington, California. There are categories ranging from culinary arts, architecture, earth science, chemistry, biochemistry, playwriting, you name it. It's pretty much all the arts, dance, contemporary, vocal, musical composition."

"Actually, I didn't really realize how big this was until I walked into the Marriott today," Tigney said. "I was just looking around, seeing all the other people with their shirts on, like, Texas, Seattle. It's just amazing and I'm just proud to be here."

ACT-SO participant Nathan Keesee went to Renaissance High School. He's competing in the architecture category.

"Last year, I won gold on the local level and we went to San Antonio last year for nationals, so I wanted to compete again this year," Keesee said. "When I was younger, I was interested in model train sets and things like that. But overall, I took an architecture class through a college and that's what really gained my interest in architecture."

Keesee has been working with his advisors for months, finalizing his detailed blueprints and tweaking his speech before he goes in front of the judges.

"I am giving a presentation on a new proposed NAACP headquarters," Keesee said. "The headquarters now is in Baltimore, Maryland, and it's very old, and I just felt it needed to be revamped. So, me being in Youth Council, having that personal connection on different things with the NAACP, I feel like (it) should have a nice building, a welcome center."

This is the first time in more than a decade that the NAACP convention is being held in Detroit.

"It hasn't been here since 2007, so it's been awhile since we hosted the competition," Broner said. "The competition is six categories. It ranges from business entrepreneurship, culinary arts, STEM, performing arts, humanities and visual arts. There's also a pilot program for hospitality management, which will be rolling out as our seventh category for the 2019-2020 competition year."

Students from the area are hoping to win the gold in their hometown.

"There are medals that are awarded: a gold, silver and bronze," Broner said. "The gold medal is awarded to the individual that scores between a 95 to 100. The silver is 94 to 90 points and the bronze is 89 to 85 points."

"I'm really excited -- a little nervous, but mostly excited," Amyre Tigue said.

Tigue is competing in the drawing portion of the competition.

"It's a process, and you have to be patient with drawing because it takes time to improve," Tigue said. "Just be persistent and keep at it and you will improve. I've been in this competition since ninth grade, actually, and I've placed multiple times. This competition, it really opened my eyes because it shows me all the talent that's surrounding us, all the young that got so much talent. It's really amazing to witness each year. For it to be here is really cool because it's my home, where I grew up."

The convention will wrap up with an awards ceremony Sunday at the Fox Theatre. That's when students will find out what the judges thought.

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