The final sentencings related to the 2010 murder of Matthew Chew took place about a week before an event set up to help ensure such a tragedy does not happen again.
Curtis Goodwin, a founder and past producer of the New London Youth Talent Show, said he thought the coincidental timing of the sentencings and the show helps to reinforce the show's message. The first performance took place in the spring of 2011, as a way of providing a creative outlet for the city’s youth.
“We never knew it was going to be this successful,” said Goodwin. “We just thought it was going to be something to alleviate some of the stress and the feelings from what had happened.”
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Chew, 25, was fatally stabbed on Oct. 29, 2010 after a group of six teenagers became bored and decided to attack a random person. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed that each person in the group had some culpability in the attack, but that the five who were sentenced last week probably did not intend for someone to die in the attack.
The defendant charged with stabbing Chew was sentenced last year to 35 years in prison. The remaining five defendants received prison terms of either eight years or 15 years.
“As we remember Matt we also remember all youth in the region who has ever felt misrepresented within their community,” the event description on the Garde Arts Center website reads. “This show provides young people the stage to show their community who they truly are, what they are capable of, and the amount of energy and joy they find through their craft.”
Goodwin said he did not want to downplay Chew’s murder, but felt that the animosity arising from the case caused some residents to give up on the potential of New London’s youth. He said the show has seen positive interaction between those who knew Chew and those who were friends of the defendants.
“We could have been any of those five kids up there if things had gone the wrong way,” said Goodwin. “We come from the same neighborhoods as these kids and we have the same opportunities to go forward.”
Goodwin said several success stories have come out of the show. Organizing the show led him to realize his dream of forming his own production company, Curtis K. Goodwin Productions. Another organizer, hip hop recording artist Frank “Gramz” Colmenares, is receiving attention in the music world.
The dance group WTO went on to appear on BET after appearances in the Youth Talent Show. And performer Joseph Salcedo appeared on the Sesame Street float during last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“We have no idea what they can do if we give them an opportunity,” said Goodwin.
The show was expanded last year to take in acts from New London County as a whole, and Goodwin said the goal is to find ways to grow and evolve each year. He said he is taking part in this year’s show more as a spectator than an organizer, but that he thinks the show will be able to sell out the Garde as it has in the past two years.
Organizer Andrea Messenger said in a Patch blog entry that the show has gained new partners and coaches and intends to keep up the momentum of the event and its goal of supporting youth and the community.
“The reverberations of the talent that has moved on to more and more success, some on a national stage, prove that our efforts are worth it,” Messenger wrote. “Our efforts are echoed in their triumphs.”
The Youth Talent Show begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Garde Arts Center. Tickets are $10 and available online or at the box office.