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Cultural awareness is at the heart of Building Community Bridges' upcoming SoulFest event.

Slated for July 23-25, the new event features a block party on Ashley Street, fashion show and gospel concert to promote local talent, cuisine and small businesses, according to BCB Director Alicia Edwards.

"We wanted to showcase the Old Munichburg neighborhood so people know there are people here," Edwards said. "This is the first year, but the hope is for this to grow and to build partnerships so this is an event for everyone to come to each year."

Edwards said the original plan was to hold the event in February in conjunction with Black History Month, but because of the ongoing pandemic, it was decided to push the event to July to line up with BCB's Proclamation Day on July 24. She added they haven't decided when to hold the event in future years, but the plan is for SoulFest to become an annual community celebration.

The weekend event starts with a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for BCB from 4-7 p.m. July 23 at 213 E. Ashley St. The $10 ticket price will go toward funding BCB programs. Following the dinner Friday, a teen party for ages 10-16 is scheduled for 8-11 p.m. at 713 Madison St., the old Family Dollar location.

The rest of the weekend will feature a block party along Ashley Street from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. each day showcasing numerous vendors and family-friendly activities. In addition to food trucks on site, a BCB table will be offering complimentary food and beverages.

Building Community Bridges aims to "inspire, uplift and aid youth development through self-awareness, education, entrepreneurship and community issues that impact their daily lives," according to the nonprofit's Facebook page.

One way to do that, Edwards said, is through the nonprofit's business incubator model.

Khiara Brown, BCB's business manager and fashion director, explained people can start their small business for free through BCB if they provide a free service to youth younger than age 17 in the community. Brown works with BCB through her business, Poise Search Fashion and Modeling Company, LLC, which is spearheading the SoulFest fashion show.

"My main goal is to ensure people recognize their beauty with and without makeup or with or without fancy clothing," Brown said. "It's about building that confidence in themselves and recognizing where their strength comes from."

Confidence and empowerment, she said, are overarching themes of the SoulFest fashion show, which is from 4-8 p.m. July 24 at 713 Madison St.

The fashion show will feature mostly local models and designers associated with Lincoln University and Building Community Bridges programs — though some are coming from as far as Las Vegas. The show is considered family- friendly and features models of all ages, Brown said, noting there will be a lingerie portion of the show so parental guidance is recommended.

With a "jazzy feel," she said the show will feature themes from the Harlem Renaissance along with the movie "The Wiz," offering an upscale vibe to prepare attendees and participants for the afterparty. Brown noted she wants people to socialize and have fun while being responsible, and ending the show with a "Black excellence" scene will set the right tone for the evening, she said.

Presale tickets for the fashion show are $10 and can be purchased through eventbrite.com. VIP tickets, which include a front-row seat, dinner and a ticket to the afterparty, are available for $35; general admission at the door is $15.

There are still openings for models and designers to participate in the fashion show. Those interested should contact Brown at 573-824-2173. More information is available through the Poise Search Instagram account, @poisesearchfmco.

The SoulFest weekend celebration wraps up Sunday, July 25, with a gospel concert at 3 p.m. at 713 Madison St. The concert will be performed by all local artists and church choirs.

"Music is so important when we talk about what moves our soul. It connects us," Edwards said. "Especially in Black and low-income areas, gospel is rooted deep in the community. Even if you didn't grow up going to church, you probably know a hymn from your grandma or relative singing them."

For more information on SoulFest or to become a vendor, contact Edwards at [email protected] or visit www.buildingcommunitybridgesjcmo1.com.

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