LITTLE VOICES IS A COLLABORATION OF THE HEART
Recording artist Crystal Starr and her business partner and manager Kem Anyanwu each had their own unique connection to the foster system, but it wasn’t until they began discussing their experiences and researching the facts that they recognized the extent of the need.
They were overwhelmed by the startling statistics of children who had experienced the foster system:
● 4-10x more likely than the general population to commit a crime
● 5x more likely to develop PTSD
● 7x more likely to develop drug dependency
● 25% experience homelessness within four years of transitioning out of the system.
Realizing a shared desire to connect with and positively impact these children, Crystal and Kem came together in 2011 to create what is today, Little Voices, an organization that would be committed to engaging and empowering youth in foster care.
They began their work in a boys’ home. With traditional programming difficult to implement due to constant moves and changes within the system, Crystal and Kem focused instead on developing “listening sessions.” They created these open sessions to give children a space to share their stories, concerns, hopes, and aspirations. Some boys even performed poetry and songs they’d written to illustrate their experience. The intent was to “listen first.”
“WE WERE JUST TWO GIRLS WITH A HEART FOR FOSTER YOUTH“ — KEM
In December of 2011, the idea of a Christmas concert was born. It would be a show solely for and to the benefit of the children that Crystal and Kem worked so closely with.
What started without a venue, lineup, or budget transformed into a full-fledged production in a matter of weeks, thanks to generous donations and sponsorships from Crystal and Kem’s professional network. Within days there was a 17-piece orchestra, two choirs, prominent musicians and singers, alongside a drumline, sponsored ice cream, gifts, and a Santa Claus impersonator.
On December 22nd, 2011, the officially named “Crystal Starr Christmas” took place at Barnsdall Theater in Hollywood, California, and benefitted the children in foster care of the Los Angeles area. 300 children in the foster system were served that evening, and each child was given a gift at the end, with the help of several donors.
The greatest gift of the production was the later adoption of two young girls who were in attendance that night.
The “Crystal Starr Christmas” concerts have become an annual tradition and they’ve made a way for other concerts that support foster youth. The concert has featured renowned artists and performers such Judith Hill, Common, Andra Day, and Michelle Williams, as well as sponsorships from businesses such as CAA, Target and Beats by Dre. From giving the children the opportunity to write and perform their own song (with the help of producer Harmony Samuels) to creating a VIP backstage experience (hair, makeup, pre-show dance class), each year has allowed Little Voices to develop a new and unique experience for every child.
“I LOVE A CHALLENGE, I LOVE WHEN SOMEONE TELLS ME I CAN’T DO IT.“ — CRYSTAL
Out of these concerts grew a desire to offer career experience and create lasting opportunities for both youth in foster care and youth in transition (young adults who formerly experienced the foster system.) By developing partnerships with industry professionals connected to Little Voices , these children and young adults would be engaged in hands-on work around the concerts and connected to internships and jobs within the Entertainment industry.
With a growing list of partners, an expansive volunteer network (400+), and a dedicated staff, Little Voices continues its work. Currently, over 5,000 children have been engaged through their workshops, listening sessions, and benefit concerts.
Little Voices believes in supporting, inspiring, and mobilizing children and youth in the foster system. Our goal is to expand resources and efforts to empower these youth. Our conviction is that every child is deserving of hope, inspiration, and love and that even the littlest voice desires to be heard.
LITTLE VOICES BELIEVES IN LISTENING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER.