Photo by Michael Azzato of Selective Eye Photography
By Jennifer Corr
Artists and spectators gathered at the Nutty Irishman, a pub in Farmingdale, N.Y., to raise awareness for suicide prevention.
“Let’s Blossom; An Evening of Appreciation for Life” was the second event by E2LI, a platform grounded in Long Island that promotes positive social events. The executive of E2LI, Tywana William, wanted to pursue suicide prevention as a topic for an event to spark conversations about the topic and inspire audience members.
“E2LI stands for ‘Empowered to Lift and Inspire,’ and basically it’s about helping people with motivational events like this,” Williams said. “We want to do training, things of that sort. And it’s just about social change. Talking about things that most people don’t want to talk about.”
Among the attendees of “Let’s Blossom” was the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention and VIBS, Long Island’s family violence and rape crisis center. Notable Long Island artists also took the stage, such as Pete and L.A, Kyle Royce, Kelly Wask, Phil Loft, Danielle Davis and Louie V.
The emcee of the event, Pete Arevalo, who also hosts other open mics across Long Island, started “Let’s Blossom” with a brief speech highlighting the importance of suicide awareness and his own experiences with the topic. He then led the audience through a moment of silence to honor those who have taken their own lives or are struggling with suicidal thoughts.
“We need more love, we’re extraordinarily deficient in it,” Arevalo said during his speech.
The director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Long Island Chapter, Ann Morrison, also said a few words about the importance of suicide prevention. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and is the second leading cause of death among young people. Morrison also invited the audience members to the “Out of the Darkness Walk” at Jones Beach on October 28.
“We all need help,” Morrison said. “We all need to reach out.”
Morrison left the stage with a Service Award presented by E2LI in her hands.
Tori Uruburu, who sells jewelry to raise funds for suicide prevention, was also presented with an award.
Starting the show was opera singer, Danielle Davis. She began her performance at the back of the venue and walked through the audience, interacting with people on her way to the stage. Davis was excited to bring opera to an audience who may not be familiar with the opera scene. Along with Davis’s voice echoing through the venue, dancer Wendy Wang performed ballet.
“I have collaborated before with the dance and the opera, and it’s always this transformative experience for the audience,” Davis said. “In that opera she [Suor Angelica] actually kills herself in the end of the opera. And so we figured it was the subject matter that needed to be spoken about today. And being able to show both the light and the dark of it, because I was dressed all in black, she was dressed all in white, it’s something that we really like to show.”
Spoken word poet, Luis Valdes, who goes by Louie V. on stage, kicked off his series of poems with, “Jackelyn Nights,” which honored his godmother who took her own life. He recited original poetry accompanied by piano multiple times throughout the show. His poems were inspired by life events related to suicide.
“It’s important to raise awareness to people who are struggling through it,” Valdes said. “At one point in my life, suicide did cross my mind because it was a bottomless pit that life itself kept dragging me under with not having a soul that actually cared for me.”
Following Valdes was Laurie Anne Ceus and Peter Iannacchino in the musical group, Pete and LA. The duo used guitar and vocals to perform covers of “What’s Goin On” by Marvin Gaye and “Feeling Good,” a song from the musical, “The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd.”
Kyle Royce performed original music, including his songs “Blacksheep” and “Tragedy” which he dedicated to a friend.
“ I run a platform of PLP. It’s peace, love and progression, and it’s what I dedicate everything to. Everything in my life as far as music creativity goes,” Royce said. “I think that it’s important to promote positivity. I think that we need a strong person to champion that you know, it’s cool to be positive.”
Kelly Wask sang a cover of Elton John’s famous song “Your Song” and Sia’s “Alive.” Wask said she was excited to sing inspirational songs for the audience.
Wrapping up the show was Phil Loft who performed the original songs “Brave” and “More Than Once.” Loft has been closely involved with “Let’s Blossom,” by promoting and organizing meet-ups to discuss ideas with the performers.
“After knowing what I know now about how to prevent suicide and help others, I think it’s very important to still get the word out,” Loft said. “I think I want people to be more comfortable in talking about it and just, you know, having a conversation about it.”
“’Let’s Blossom’ raised $300 in raffle donations and has attracted an ‘endless amount’ of support,” Williams said.
“I felt that, all in all, overall, it was amazing,” Williams said. “Only because I felt everybody’s energy. Everybody was into what the speakers were saying. Everybody was into the performances. I can feel everybody engaged.”