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OneBody Ent offers art and education opportunities to southside youth 

DiverseCity

DeAndre “Dee” Smith, and his wife Jennifer, have dreamed of working with kids since they first met in 1993, when they were students at East Middle School. They became a couple in 1996, and have been working with each other toward their goals ever since.

This February will mark the fifth anniversary of OnebodyEnt (a.k.a. OneBody Ent, named for “one body in Christ”), a local grassroots production company founded by the Smiths, whose mission is to provide access to the arts and the knowledge of multicultural history to kids who may not otherwise have the resources to participate in such programs.

Dee was born and raised in the “Southside/K-land” (the Pikes Peak Park neighborhood, called K-land because of its proximity to the old Kmart), where there wasn’t a variety of youth programming available.

His dad, Al Smith, known as “Coach Tiny” to the neighborhood, did what he could by hosting local teen nights at the Boys and Girls Club on Chelton Road, but it wasn’t enough. Dee always wished that he had more access to community art programs and could have learned more about multicultural and black history. Most of the programming available to him at the time was centered on anti-drug use, but didn’t provide alternative activities.

“Oftentimes,” Dee says, “growing up, drug programming focused on just saying ‘no.’ I want to help kids say ‘no,’ but also give them something to do… We have a lot of talented kids from my community who act, sing, write and dance.”

Today, Onebody’s main focus is to provide entertainment to those kids and young adults, and allow them to display their talent. They do this through annual productions and events like their History of Colorado: Honoring Heroes in Our Community program, plus a black history program, a Southside/K-land Fourth of July barbecue and comedy show, and a back-to-school community barbecue and backpack giveaway. They have also worked with Cedar Springs Hospital and KPC Respite Center to host events supporting awareness of autism and child abuse.
Onebody’s various programs allow kids to perform in character as historical figures, play music with international acts such as The ReMINDers, or perform interpretive dance numbers, all while encouraging the wider community to come out and support them.

“We want to do something fun that brings awareness to the positive things that are happening in the community,” Dee says. For those who enjoy a little high school rivalry every now and again, they even host alumni basketball games for graduates of Wasson, Mitchell, Doherty and Palmer.

In addition to their work with youth, Onebody has also brought national and international acts — both musical and comedic — to the Springs, sometimes in collaboration with other local production companies such as 719 Nightlife, which they founded with Paul “Hollywood” Smith and Will Starks. To date they’ve presented Chanel and Trin-i-tee 5:7, Tony Exum Jr., Dru Hill, Amanda Perez, Tony! Toni! Toné! and many more.

Using their Behind the Mic radio show on 96.1 FM, The Beat (Sundays at 7:30 p.m.), 719 Nightlife interviews these acts and promotes meet-and-greets with the community, so young people can see that celebrities are everyday people who simply followed their dreams.

Often, the Smiths use their entertainment programs and shows to give voice to other community issues.

“When we brought Trin-i-tee 5:7 out,” Dee says, “people came because they wanted to see them, but it gave a bigger [platform] to talk about child abuse and kids living with autism.”

OnebodyEnt has big plans for the next five years. Right now, the Smiths pay for all their productions themselves or with the help of small fundraisers, but they are currently raising money to apply to become a 501c(3) nonprofit in hopes of attracting more and bigger donations. That would allow them offer their programs to more kids, introduce new programs (including an anti-drug program) and hold their productions at bigger venues, such as City Auditorium.

The Smiths have their sights set high and are committed to making their dreams happen. If the last five years are any indication, they will.

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