Seven Bronx teens are headed to your television screen Friday for being “changemakers” in their communities.
The McKinley Clover Steppers — a dance team formed in 2013 by seven middle and high school-aged students in the Bronx — were chosen to appear on ABC’s fourth annual “WE Day” special, and to receive a surprise delivered by actress Whoopi Goldberg.
The program tells the stories of children across the country who’ve proven to be an “unstoppable force for change,” and helps to spread the word about the causes they support, according to a news release.
Since the group’s inception five years ago, the Clover Steppers have been speaking out against gun violence in their borough.
“We step to show our community to put the guns down let’s talk about it because enough is enough,” a Clover says in a teaser clip for the special.
The Clovers were formed with the help of program director/mentor Alisa Pratt, who met the girls at the 161st Street McKinley Community Center where they all participated in after-school cheerleading.
“Right there at the McKinley Community Center, it was like non-stop gun shooting, like 2 in the afternoon, 10 in the morning, 8 at night, always something going on that these young ladies could not even get into the complex to come to after school,” Pratt says.
She adds: “One day I just had a talk with them and asked if they really wanted to be cheerleaders or do they want to be able to tack on the issues we have right here in our backyard that’s preventing you guys from coming to your safe haven.”
The Clovers have danced at local community events, including Bronx Day, and have taken their team on the road to chant in Washington, D.C. and Albany. They even tried their luck at the Amateur Night at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem three times.
“We didn’t win, but we started getting contacted by all these other networks. We realized our voices are heard through our hand claps and our feet,” Pratt explains.
The girls gather at the community center four times a week for three-hour practices and memorize routines involving stomping, clapping and chanting. Instead of cheering for a sports team, the teens cry out that violence is not the answer.
“I feel like being in a safe community matters because it’s not going to be safe for kids to walk outside in the street at night and they shouldn’t have to worry about going out without something happening,” says Clover Maya Walton, 18.
The team caught the eye of the Allstate Foundation Good Starts Young program, which has teamed up with ABC to sponsor the “WE Day” special by awarding youth with a mission with a trip to California for the concert-style TV celebration.
“The Clovers stood out to the team because of their true passion for stepping and intense dedication to stop the violence in their community,” a spokeswoman says in a statement.
The special airs Friday at 8 p.m.