Lift Every Voice and Sing (LEVAS) Gospel Festival and fair was organized in 1995 by co-founders Edward Johnson and Tanna Howard. They recruited six other Greater Hartford concerned individuals who believed in its goal of providing an annual day of Gospel and Inspiration music to the Hartford Community much like the annual Wood Stock festival. The mission of the LEVAS organization is to Save Souls/Impact Lives through the Arts. The powerful impact of Gospel and Inspirational music and other forms of the arts provided will help to lessen and loosen much of the stress families are faced with in their home, school and community from day to day. Arts and education are among our community greatest assets. The festival offers a variety of multicultural music, dance performances, health screenings and printed information, sports events, face painting, inflatable rides, workshops, food and merchandise vendors, prayer and spiritual counseling upon request and other entertainment for all ages. The ultimate goal of the LEVAS Festival is to expand throughout the United States and Internationally.
For the past twenty years LEVAS has offered various forms of community service to low income and at-risk families, youth and senior centers/housing, schools, shelters, hospitals, funerals, weddings, universities, churches, parties, memorial services and other Community events. Much of this community involvement is done through the LEVAS Community Choir.
Studies have shown that when kids are involved in the arts it improves their academics, school attendance and team building skills. Improvements are visible in many other ways and can have a transforming effect that can help to reverse negative behavior patterns in children and youth. Partnerships with families, churches and youth centers in Hartford are critical because youths look forward to either participating or simply enjoying the annual music, sports and other festivities presented. LEVAS has also had a profound influence in the lives of areas seniors. Winners at the Annual Mr. and Mrs. Hartford Senior Pageant when held is announced at the gospel festival. The organization also sponsored a Home Bound Senior Program. In 2010 our festival kick-off was a community event called “Bridging the Gap between Generations.” This event was repeated in 2012. This program involved participants born before 1945 until 2012. The benefits of a Bridging the Gap program are numerous because it helps the community to see opportunities and needs between age groups, showing the value in age diversity, allows blending to be practiced between generations, demonstrates appreciation for one another, shares common ground experiences, encourage each group to accept social and civic responsibility for one another and it builds unity and acceptance between different all groups. This blending process is very difficult to master. However, when strategically taught and practiced it demonstrates unity, meet different needs, provide diversity, honor the past, present and future and allow people to see the need for change in their behavior towards self and others. Arts with Education are beneficial for mind, body and spirit development.