Once again award-winning journalist and fashionista Joy Sewing is doing her part to bring “joy to the world.” The event she founded in 2016 to give Black and Brown elementary-aged children exposure to new experiences is back for another go-round.
The 7th Annual H-E-B Year of Joy® Holiday Ice Skating Party, Houston’s only free ice-skating party for children from underserved communities, takes place is happening Tuesday, Dec. 13 from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. at Discovery Green’s Green Mountain Energy Ice (1500 McKinney, Houston, TX 77002).
And Sewing, who became Houston’s first African American figure-skating coach while in college, couldn’t be more excited for the 2022 version of the Ice Skating Party, especially as she reflected on the past.
“The first year we did it, we had 35 participants, mostly girls, from a Third Ward elementary school,” recalled Sewing, the Houston Chronicle’s former fashion and beauty editor who in August was named the paper’s Culture Columnist. “I rented a luxury bus, picked up the girls at the school and brought them in, and many of them had never even been downtown. So, to see their faces when they got off the bus and saw Discovery Green as it sits against the backdrop of the downtown Skyline, they were just in awe. To see that wonderment that you want to see in children was just amazing.”
Sewing described that first year like a scene from a feel-good TV show, which makes sense when you consider the inspiration for Sewing’s “Year of Joy” movement.
“I’d read Shonda Rhymes’ book ‘Year of Yes.’ She was the most powerful Black woman on TV, behind the scenes, and I was taken with her story. It was the first time I read something by somebody who looked like me telling a story about being overwhelmed with life and the changes that she made. She decided to have a ‘Year of Yes.’ So, after I finished her book, I decided to have a ‘Year of Joy’ and do things that brought me joy; things that I had gotten so removed from just with daily life,” said Sewing.
Sewing’s idea quickly turned into something she wanted to do with and for children. And as a person who grew up ice skating in Houston, she wanted to find a way to expose the sport to children who may not have had that opportunity. Though Sewing could never find traction for her idea in the various cities she lived in and worked as a journalist, when she returned to Houston, one call helped her move from idea to action.
“I just decided to call Discovery Green and they’ve been on board since the beginning; and H-E-B, as well,” she said.
This year, some 150 children from Third Ward and surrounding areas will enjoy holiday fun on ice. The children participating represent Hype Freedom School, Southside Community Center, MacGregor Elementary, Hartsfield Elementary and Be a Resource for Children, which supports children in foster care.
The event is being held in partnership with Discovery Green Conservancy. The ice rink, managed by Ice Rink Events, is generously opening an hour early and is, along with the conservancy, providing admission and skate rental for the children.
Houston skating coach Dayyanah Coleman, a Haitian native who started ice skating as an adult, will perform, along with Year of JoyFigure Skating Scholar John Esteban Catano Molina, who taught himself to skate by watching YouTube videos in his native Colombia.
Onstage entertainment includes dance performances by the Houston Urban Nutcracker and holiday tunes sung by Miss Houston ambassadors. Santa Claus, a volunteer with 100 Black Men of Houston, will join the fun.
Fox 26 Meteorologist Remeisha Shade, who also started ice skating as an adult, will serve as emcee. And Mayor Sylvester Turner, a regular at this yearly happening, has been invited to visit the children.
A big part of the Year of Joy is providing children the power of representation
“One year I had one little kid who might have been five, about the youngest we have, and he hit me on my leg and he was tumbling around in his skates and had his little mittens on and he said, ‘Hey lady, this is the best day of my life’ <laughs>. I’m like, ‘You’re five.’ But, it’s those kinds of things. Because what I believe is that even though they might not skate again, they may not ever take a lesson or anything, but the exposure, giving them the opportunity to see me on ice skates; to see my brother, who was a hockey player and who comes to help with the kids; and we have other people who have skated—performers who are skaters of color who are competing here in the Houston area—just for them to see people who look like them skate that they would never see otherwise is just very powerful. I think it’s an image that stays with you as you grow up,” said Sewing.
The holiday event is sponsored by H-E-B. Also, alliantgroup, with a team of volunteers, will provide the children with holiday gift bags and STEM kits.
Year of Joy® is a 501c3 non-profit organization that offers other children-focused experiences besides the ice-skating event. Some past events included a Wonder Woman-themed bowling party, Houston designer-sponsored tea party, Microsoft tech workshops n the Galleria and more. For more information, visit JoySewing.com.