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Guiding students of color through the power of theater

An entertainment producer from Lewiston is working to expose kids to theater as part of Black History Month.

LEWISTON, Maine — February is Black History Month, a time to recognize the role of Black Americans in U.S. history and celebrate African American culture. 

The co-founder of an entertainment company is working to expose black youth in Lewiston to the fullness of their heritage. Joshua Hughes is raising money to give kids an opportunity to see the upcoming musical "Moses" in Portland, all with the hope to empower children of color to pursue performing arts one day. 

Hughes often grabs pizza with some Lewiston High School students on weeknights after shooting hoops or playing foosball. The Philadelphia transplant attended a year of high school in Lewiston, a time when he started song and stage writing as a way to express himself.  

"It's a way for people to be themselves and tell their own stories," Hughes said.

Hughes, who runs his own production company, Joshua Hughes Entertainment, helped start Rooted Soul Entertainment several years ago to expose students to Black heritage through the power of theater. 

Right now he works with about two dozen students ranging from eight to 16 years old. One of the co-founders of Rooted Soul Entertainment was Nicole Mokeme, an activist for Black and Indigenous people. Mokeme was killed in a hit-and-run incident in June 2022. Hughes said he and Mokeme shared a passion for enriching the lives of students of color.  

 "Bringing Black culture into the realm of theater here, it's the reason why I keep doing it," Hughes explained. 

Hughes is raising money through GoFundMe to give kids an opportunity to attend Moses, a musical production at Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Feb. 11. 

Hughes is the executive producer of the musical, presented by John Graves Productions out of Philadelphia. The production portrays a new twist on a familiar biblical story as part of its annual Black History Month event. Hughes hopes to raise $6,000 to cover the cost of transportation, tickets, and meals for 200 kids. Hassan Abdi is 15 years old and wants to learn more about his heritage.

"I think Black history month is important. It's important for me to see my people doing that," Hassan added.

For Hughes, it's an important time to not only celebrate the legacy of Black history but plant a seed in kids now.

"Create a spark in kids so that way they can tap into their own talents and see where it goes from there," Hughes said. 

The arts served as his saving grace. Hughes now hopes to guide more Black youth on their own path of expression. For more information, you can email Hughes at joshuahughesentertainment@gmail.com.

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