On Friday, May 25, the Cheyenne River Youth Project will officially kick off its summer 2018 Midnight Basketball season—and bring its spring Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Performing Arts Series to a close—with an eagerly anticipated celebration at its Eagle Butte campus. This special event also will include an honoring for 2018 high school graduates, and an informal Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) welcoming for the 13-year-olds who are now able to participate in the teen center’s programming for the first time.

The fun begins at 6 p.m. with live performances in the Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park.
Concert-goers of all ages will enjoy performances by Prolific the Rapper, Gunner Jules and Let It Bee in the Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park from 6 to 11 p.m. And from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., youth ages 13-18 will be able to play basketball in the Cokata Wiconi gymnasium.

The concert is the final installment of CRYP’s spring 2018 Waniyetu Wowapi Performing Art Series, made possible by a National Endowment for the Arts grant. According to Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, staff members have been overwhelmed at the community response to this first-ever performing arts initiative at the youth project’s campus.

“When we launched our Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute, we focused primarily on fine art, graffiti and street art, and traditional Lakota arts, because we had the infrastructure and support in place to do that,” Garreau explained. “Our vision always was to add performing arts, and thanks to NEA ArtWorks, we were able to realize that vision this spring.”

Nearly 120 people came to CRYP’s most recent performance, which was a Mother’s Day comedy show featuring Mylo Smith Jr. and Tito Ybarra. Valerie Siquieros, youth programs coordinator, reported that many attendees said it was the best Mother’s Day they’d had in years.

“Offering performances in our art park is another way to bring our community together and lift each other up,” said Jerica Widow, youth programs director. “We’re already hearing that people are really looking forward to the Midnight Basketball kickoff. The art park is a beautiful place to relax outside, enjoy the talent and creativity of our guest performers, and make memories with family and friends.”

The teens, of course, are equally looking forward to the new summer season of Midnight Basketball. CRYP created the program in 1996, hoping to find a way to give Cheyenne River’s young people a safe, positive, drug- and alcohol-free environment to play their favorite sport, hang out with friends, get something to eat, and stay up past the city of Eagle Butte’s 10 p.m. curfew. The program succeeded well beyond the staff’s original vision—not only did it result in lower community-wide crime rates around town on Midnight Basketball nights, according to local law enforcement, it helped build the foundation for CRYP’s holistic wellness programming.

“The 50 to 100 teens who participate every weekend are engaging in healthy and sober lifestyle choices, and they’re embracing the concepts of personal responsibility, teamwork and positive self-esteem,” Widow said. “Midnight Basketball also has proven to be a powerful tool to alleviate bullying. Every week, we see new friendships take shape, and we witness the many ways these kids support each other. It’s fantastic.”

One of CRYP’s longest-running and most loved youth programs, Midnight Basketball remains a signature component of the youth project’s ongoing wellness programming, made possible in part by grant support from the NB3 Foundation, the N7 Fund, Diabetes Action and Research (DARE) and the Wellmark Foundation. Their support ensures that the youth project is able to continue pursuing culturally sensitive, relevant and sustainable youth wellness programming on the Cheyenne River Lakota reservation.

To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).

The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.