Taro Alexander, Duke Ellington Graduate and Son of Living Stage Theatre Company Founder, Returns Home to Launch SAY: DC, A Free Resource for Young People Who Stutter and Their Families


WASHINGTON, March 20, 2019 — The Stuttering Association for the Young (SAY) announced today that they would be launching a new chapter of their award-winning organization here in DC this Spring with free offerings for local young people who stutter and their families.

Taro Alexander founded SAY in New York City in 2001, and it continues to grow and flourish there. Now, with the launch of SAY: DC, the organization’s first satellite office has opened in the Nation’s Capital.

To officially kick off SAY: DC, the organization is hosting a free day camp on Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28, 2019. It will be the perfect opportunity for kids and teens (ages 8-18) to meet new friends who stutter and participate in exciting activities that help build confidence. The two-day event will take place in DC amidst the historic grandeur of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

Joseph R. Biden, Jr., former Vice President of the United States and person who stutters, has praised SAY, stating, “Growing up, I struggled with stuttering and understand firsthand the anguish, frustration, and anxiety that this common speech disorder inflicts on young people. I hope that every child who stutters has the opportunity to benefit from SAY’s program and that others will support this vital organization.”

SAY Founder, Taro Alexander, was raised in Washington, D.C. and has stuttered since he was five. Alexander loved growing up in the DMV in the 1970’s and 80’s, spending his formative years immersed in the vibrant atmosphere of the groundbreaking theatre company, Living Stage — which was founded by his father, the late Bobby Alexander, as an outreach program of Arena Stage. A 1991 graduate from the legendary Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Alexander felt comfortable portraying characters on the stage, but inside he was hiding. “My childhood and youth were challenging times because I didn’t meet anyone else who stuttered until I was 26. I grew up feeling isolated, alone, and ashamed of my stutter.”

After graduating from Ellington, Alexander left his hometown, heading to New York with close friend and classmate, Dave Chappelle, to pursue a career as a professional actor. Alexander says, “Dave was a real pivotal person for me. At a time in my life when I lacked confidence because of my stutter, Dave always believed in me. He’s a great listener and a great friend, and he always encouraged me to go after my dreams and not let my stuttering hold me back.” Over the ensuing years as his acting career blossomed, Alexander was afforded opportunities on the stage and screen and criss-crossed the country on two national tours (Lost in Yonkers, STOMP) but he always knew that his true calling was to follow in his father’s footsteps and continue the legacy of Living Stage. In 2001, he realized that the time had come to start making his dream a reality, and so SAY was founded.

Over the course of the last 18 years, SAY has transformed into a multifaceted organization offering innovative programs addressing the physical, social, and emotional impacts of stuttering for young people and their families. Since founding SAY, many professional milestones have brought Alexander back to DC: In 2002, Alexander received the Charles Van Riper Award at The Kennedy Center from the National Council on Communicative Disorders. In 2008, Alexander and SAY came back to DC to perform at Union Station as part of the VSA Arts Start with the Arts Family Festival. In 2017, Alexander and SAY once again returned to DC to receive the prestigious National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, which cited SAY as one of the ten best Creative Youth Development Programs in the country. This is the nation’s highest honor for these programs and is presented through a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), in cooperation with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA).

Jane Alexander, Tony and Emmy-award winning actress, and past Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts notes, “SAY has been a leading organization for young people who stutter for more than eighteen years, empowering them through arts education, song and speech. SAY’s commitment changes lives, inspiring youth, their families and all who work with them to a better world.”

Stuttering is a common, yet widely misunderstood speech disorder that affects over 70 million people worldwide, including approximately 5% of all young children, many who continue to stutter into adulthood. Children who stutter often have significant difficulty in establishing friendships and experience discrimination, profound cruelty and bullying. Children who stutter may underperform in school by declining to participate in school activities, and avoid participation in class discussions – literally silencing themselves to avoid ridicule and shame. This cycle can deny children the opportunity to build educational and communication skills, compromising opportunities to attend college or pursue a desired career.

Central to the mission of SAY: DC is the breaking down of all financial barriers to attendance. SAY: DC is dedicated to providing their programming completely free of charge in order to bring together a socio-economically erse range of the population — a group that is truly representative of our larger community and of all young people who stutter.

Parents of children and teens who stutter may find out more information by contacting SAY at dc@say.org, 202.919.4848, www.say.org/dc.

The Stuttering Association for the Young is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that empowers, educates, and supports young people who stutter and the world that surrounds them. Through creative expression, summer camp, and speech therapy, SAY builds a community of acceptance where young people who stutter gain confidence and communication skills. Since 2001, SAY has offered comprehensive and innovative programs that address the physical, social, and emotional impacts of stuttering. This year alone, SAY will underwrite more than $1,000,000 in programming costs for children from families in need. To date, no child has been turned away due to a family’s inability to pay.

Press Contact: Leigh Pennebaker
Phone: 202.919.4848

SOURCE The Stuttering Association For The Young

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